Monday, September 19, 2005


Here's more information on a proposed manufacturing process for LSP (see #33):
Alex Freundlich, a UH researcher, along with Charles Horton, senior research scientist at the Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials, see a way to create huge solar cell arrays on the Moon. They can be fabricated by using materials found in the lunar regolith -- the upper crust of the Moon.

Working with NASA's Johnson Space Center, Freundlich and his colleagues have used "simulated" Moon material to devise solar cell devices.

The work has lead to a master plan for the Moon.

What's required is a robotic lunar rover that cuts across the Moon's surface, melting the regolith into a very thin film of glass. Then, a thin film of solar cells is applied to that lunar glass substrate. An array of such lunar solar cells could then be used as a giant solar energy converter that cranks out electricity.Source

This is interesting, and shows how "refutations" of LSP can be based on incorrect assumptions. If solar cells are just burned directly onto the lunar surface, then the whole "lunar factory" idea is a lot simpler than it would appear at first glance. People are still thinking "inside the box" of terrestrial manufacturing techniques, imagining a solar panel as a packaged object which comes from the factory in a box. But why not just make the ground itself the glass substrate, and do processes like (printing, cleaning, vacuum deposition etc.) on top of it, in situ, with moving rovers? The moon is an ideal industrial environment -- it's already at vacuum!

The original lunar rovers from the 1970's were designed and deployed very quickly. As Criswell points out in the above cite:
Lunar rover development began after Apollo 11, and the first rover traversed the lunar surface 33 months later.

Question: Why build solar farms on the moon, when you could build them in deserts like the Sahara?

Answer: One problem with PV in the deserts is the weather. The power can be interrupted by clouds at any time, and you have to deal with issues like weathering, corrosion, and sand/grime build-up on the panels. The panels must be enclosed in protective glass, and the fabrication of that glass would require massive energy. As of 1994, EIA stats show that 60% of the energy used in glass manufacturing comes from natural gas.

The moon, on the other hand, is an ideal industrial environment. There is no weather. It may also be possible, on the moon, to fuse glass with lens or mirror furnaces (i.e with free, inexhaustible energy). The daylight temperature on the moon is 123°C. You can cook food there with ordinary sunlight. You can freeze food too, at night or in the shadows, because the temperature is -173°C. High temperature superconductors can work in the shade/night on the moon with no cooling. That would be convenient for lossless power transmission, energy storage and maglev mining etc. Oddly enough, lunar soil (regolith) is a good insulator:
A habitat less than a meter beneath the surface of Luna will experience a very constant temperature equal to its mean surface temperature. That's about -9°F (-23°C). The lunar regolith is such a good insulator that the habitat will need a heat-rejection system even at night because of the heat given off by equipment and inhabitants of the lunar habitat."Source
Just for comparison, -23°C is higher than some sleeping bag ratings.

Another problem is energy transmission. In the U.S., the best spot would be the southwest, but what about areas which aren't near any deserts? Do they cover up farmland, or open space, or grassland, or forest, or tundra? Covering up the Sonoran desert with solar panels or algae farms is often mentioned, but the Sonoran desert is not a dead parking lot of sand. I've seen it many times, and it is very alive and beautiful. Covering it up will only increase the footprint of man, and is in no way an "environmental" solution. (Neither is burning coal, even with filters.)

Another problem is energy storage. What do you do when the sun goes down on the Sonoran Desert? This is a very severe problem with all terrestrial solar. The solar has to be parasitic on a waste generating process, like nuclear or coal.

It's also interesting to consider the geopolitics of desert power. If a desert power technology can be established, deserts will function economically like dams. The power can only be transmitted so far, so deserts and their satelittes will function as cores of development, and desert-rich countries will become rich because they own the real estate. Las Vegas will boom like never before. Is it good for the US/Europe to switch from one form of power monopolized by desert nations to another form of power with the same problem? After all, when you talk about the "Sahara", you're actually talking about the property of Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Mali, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Libya, Egypt and Sudan. They'll nationalize the sands. The moon, on the other hand, doesn't belong to anybody. In fact, isn't the U.S. flag still flying up there? :P

In a word, the long-term solution to peak oil is the grid. But (IMO) there are only two realistic, environmental ways to provide non-intermittent base power: nuclear and space solar (although hot dry rock may play a role at some point). I prefer space solar because it is 100% sustainable (peak-proof), eliminates toxic processes like uranium mining, and moves our industrial footprint off-planet.


At Monday, September 19, 2005 at 4:57:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee, given the fact we can barely get a ship up and back, I'd say this has an extremely high chance of doing absolutely jack shit. But keep mentally masturbating to your adolescent Star Trek fantasies, JD. It should keep you warm this winter.

At Monday, September 19, 2005 at 7:53:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...

Who's "we"? The Americans? And the ship you are referring to... would that be the renowned "Space Shittle"? LOL.

At Monday, September 19, 2005 at 10:02:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting stuff JD. Thanks for continuing to post.

At Tuesday, September 20, 2005 at 2:30:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, JD, I know how to get the power back to earth! A big extension cord! Ha!

Now, you're site IS called peak oil DEBUNKED isn't it? When are you going to start the debunking bit?

At Tuesday, September 20, 2005 at 2:35:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD, I know how to get solar at night. It's real, we've tested it before but just not scaled it up enough.

It's called a Solar Chimney.

Unfortunately it's not very efficient with sunlight... so we have to make do with far less electricity, which basically means cities.

But let's keep modern technology, modern medicine, the internet.... in a stable state economy, with wind & solar PV & geothermal & solar chimneys and carbon nano-tubes that transport 100% of the electrons as far as you could wish (10, 15 years away?)

But let's also get real. Renewables are not going to run what we are running. We'll be lucky if dieoff doesn't happen, I don't think it's likely but I do think it's possible. The Greater Depression is inevitable!

Renewables might just get us through into eco-cities without a catastrophe, if we all pull together and realize a common dream.

With you debunking and writing pieces about "food towers" and misinforming people as to the COST of that food, I don't think even the peakniks have a common dream... let alone confronting Mr & Mrs Suburbia.

At Tuesday, September 20, 2005 at 9:01:00 AM PDT, Blogger James Shannon said...

Dukat: "This is just another part of part of jd's fantasy of breaking out of the shell. Obvioulsy JD watches alot of startrek constantly watching picard beam down to a planet saying to the natives you'll progress to the stars just as we did but we can't give you the technology as it's against the prime directive."

More rhetoric from Mr. Dukat. Luddite attitudes such as yours don't solve problems. It's because of people like you that scientists are afraid to forward radical concepts these days, for fear of their professional reputations being tainted. LSP is a high-risk, very high reward proposition. Considering the energy problems it could solve, why aren't we looking at this closer?

Dukat: "JD's fiction books assumes infinate human intelligence to progress."

"The human species arn't smart enough to progress to the next level..."

There is so much we don't understand about the world around us. Yet, at the turn of the 20th century, there were scientists who thought that we had discovered all that there was to be discovered (as far as major things were concerned). Clearly, this was wrong, as the 20th century saw more innovation and invention than any century in the history of humankind.

Dukat: "You are correct in your thinking, that is what we are doing, but just because we suck everything dry doesn't mean that = we will go into space and live a startrek fantasy with ds9 and wormholes connecting us to the gamma quadrant."

More rhetoric. When did JD ever say this (regarding "wormholes" and "Deep Space 9")? Most of what he has proposed has been talked about NASA engineers for some time now. Most of it (if not all) could be done with existing technology. The only thing that remains to be seen is if it is able to produce the immense amounts of continous power to the Earth's surface said to be possible...

Seriously Dukat, all this useless rhetoric (i.e. the Star Trek mocking of JD) you've been throwing around undermines your credibility, IMO. We can't really begin to have a serious debate on this until we stop slinging mud...

At Tuesday, September 20, 2005 at 9:57:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's posts like this one that make me think you're being paid by who knows who to make people who DON'T believe the Heinbergs look stupid.

Could you show a little more discretion?


At Tuesday, September 20, 2005 at 11:41:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice proposal. I hope we actually do this instead of rolling over and dying or destroying the environment, but I'm only moderately hopeful. Detractors, please say something intelligent instead of using Star-Trek-related insults.

At Thursday, September 22, 2005 at 5:16:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...

Do you propose to build a belt of LSP generators around the moon? Or to use one just half the month?

There are a number of ways of engineering around that problem. Here's Criswell's approach:

"The LSP System uses bases on opposing limbs of the Moon. Each base transmits multiple microwave power beams directly to Earth rectennas when the rectennas can view the Moon. Each base is augmented by fields of photoconverters just across the limb of the Moon. Thus, one of the two bases in the pair can beam power toward Earth over the entire. cycle of the lunar day and night. This version of LSP supplies extra energy to a rectenna on Earth while the rectenna can view the Moon. The extra energy is stored and then released when the Moon is not in view."Source

At Saturday, September 24, 2005 at 9:38:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Within 10 to 15 years nanotech will come of age and one of the many new possibilities will be the space elevator; a lightweight cable allowing climbing vehicles to cheaply take large payloads into high orbit. When this happens, and it really is only a matter of time, large scale space based solar power, among other things, will be easily achievable.

The space elevator will solve our energy and economic problems.


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