Thursday, May 24, 2007

More Misc causes for guarded optimism.

Progress on some environmental fronts only proves that we are capable of “creation tending”. That means we are also obligated to do more. (And that those who rationalize a “disposable Earth” before the Book of Revelations comes true... are doing the devil’s work.).

From The Progressive Policy Institute:

The Numbers:
World chlorofluorocarbon consumption, 1986: 1.08 million tons
World chlorofluorocarbon consumption, 2006: 0.04 million tons

What They Mean:
The Americans who observed the first "Earth Day" in 1970 must have been short of breath. That year, American factories and cars pumped 197 million tons of carbon monoxide, 27 million tons of nitrogen dioxide, 12 million tons of soot and ash, 31 million tons of sulfur dioxide, and 220,000 tons of lead into the air. Four decades later, after two versions of the Clean Air Act, the air is better.

By 2005, the air-pollution output had fallen to 89 million tons of carbon monoxide, 19 million tons of nitrogen dioxide, and 2 million of particulate matter; lead, at 3,000 tons, is all but gone. National figures for "fishable" and "swimmable" rivers and lakes have also improved, and the nest-pair count for bald eagles in the lower 48 states has risen from 417 in the 1960s to almost 7,100. Meanwhile, the national GDP has tripled in real terms (from $3.8 trillion to $11.4 trillion in 2000 dollars) as employment has risen from 71 million to 137 million.

Four decades later, with environmentalism focused as intently on climate change and other global issues as on local and national concerns, is it possible to repeat the achievement? Though international environmental policy is far less developed than national laws, a look at one of the most successful multilateral environmental agreements -- the 20-year-old ban on use of "chlorofluorocarbons" -- offers reason for optimism.

Chlorofluorocarbons, known as "CFCs" for short, are carbon atoms or chains with the halide elements fluorine and chlorine substituted for hydrogen atoms. First synthesized by an American named Midgley in 1928, they were used between the 1930s and 1980s (along with some related chemicals) as refrigerator coolants, and sometimes as industrial solvents and cleansers too. Their makers regrettably did not know that CFCs react easily with ozone gas, which, floating about 15-35 kilometers above the earth, blocks ultraviolet light and so helps to prevent skin cancers. Early in the 1970s, scientists found that high-atmosphere CFCs had begun to thin the belts of ozone in the stratosphere and troposphere; and by the 1980s a large hole in the ozone layer had developed above the Antarctic.

Governments banned further production of CFCs in 1987. At that time, the world was using about 1.1 million tons of CFCs a year. Two decades on, the total is down to 43,000 tons, with the residual emissions said to be mainly from old refrigerators and fire extinguishers rather than new products. CFCs persist in the atmosphere for varying periods, and concentrations are only now beginning to decline. The shortest-lived gas of the group, methyl chloroform, is now all but gone; others will decline at slower rates, with the most persisting lasting until the 2050s and 2060s. Nonetheless, ozone-depleting chemical concentrations peaked in the late 1990s, and have now fallen by about 8.5 percent, declining first in the lower atmosphere and more recently in the stratosphere.

The U.N. Environmental Program's most recent assessment finds that ozone layers outside the poles are showing signs of recovery, and that the "hole" in the ozone layer above Antarctica has stopped growing. The o zone layer generally will likely return to natural rates by 2065 or 2070, as today's children pay for their grandchildren's college bills.


Other topical matters:

(Note: I am way too swamped to even spare the time to hot link all these tidbits that I've gathered. Most are worth pasting. Good luck all!)


http://www.10zenmonkeys.com/2007/05/09/keith-henson-back-in-jail-space-elevator-will-have-to-wait/ A matter on which I do not express opinions, but one which remains of topical interest to those who are interested in stuff like religion, transparency and the vaunted influence of science fiction authors... for well or ill.

http://www.physorg.com/news96287560.html New research shows that black holes are not the ultimate destroyers that they are often portrayed to be in popular culture. Instead, warm gas escaping from the clutches of enormous black holes could be one source of the chemical elements that make life possible.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18053937/ Russia is working on a space transport system that could eventually lead to the industrialization of the moon. Backers of the idea argue that the potential benefits - such as resource harvesting or pollution outsourcing - easily outweigh the risks and necessary investment capital.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/30/business/30energy.html?_r=2&ref=business&oref=slogin&oref=slogin Money is flowing into alternative energy companies so fast that “the warning signs of a bubble are appearing,” according to a report on investment in clean technology by a New York research firm, Lux Research. The report also suggests that companies that make equipment to cleanse air or water, or that process waste, have been overlooked by investors.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/050307R.shtml Agrichar is the term for what is left over after the energy is removed from biomass: a charcoal-based soil amendment. The agrichar process takes dry biomass of any kind and bakes it in a kiln to produce charcoal. Various gases and bio-oils are driven off the material and collected to use in heat or power generation. The charcoal is then buried in the ground, sequestering the carbon that the plants had pulled out of the atmosphere. The end result is increased soil fertility and an energy source with negative carbon emissions.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/07/technology/07copy.html?ex=1179201600&en=69c70399fc6dc794&ei=5070&emc=eta1 Agh, nobody ever listens to me! I proposed this exact thing to NASA in 1983.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070502143631.htm Rice University scientists today revealed a breakthrough method for producing molecular specks of semiconductors called quantum dots, a discovery that could clear the way for better, cheaper solar energy panels.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6773&m=15453 Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered to their surprise that nerves in the mammalian brain's white matter do more than just ferry information between different brain regions, but in fact process information the way gray matter cells do.

http://www.technologyreview.com/Biotech/18618/ The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is now considering a project, dubbed the human microbiome, to sequence the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies.

http://computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/news/C4F1278703F2238BCC2572BC00157CC9 The US military plans to test an internet router in space, in a project that could also benefit civilian broadband satellite communications. Potential non-military benefits of DoD's Internet Routing In Space (IRIS) program include the ability to route IP traffic between satellites in space in much the same way packets are moved on the ground.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6734&m=15453 The founder of the ambitious "$100 laptop" project, which plans to give inexpensive computers to school children in developing countries, revealed Thursday that the machine for now costs $175, and it will be able to run Windows in addition to Linux.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6767&m=15453 Shades of GATTACA! US to outlaw corporate prejudice based on genes

http://physorg.com/news97255464.html -- Pratim Biswas and his group have developed a method to make a variety of oxide semiconductors that, when put into water promote chemical reactions that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The method provides a new low cost and efficient option for hydrogen production.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6721&m=15453 Large swaths of garbled human DNA once dismissed as junk appear to contain some valuable sections, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California-Santa Cruz. The scientists propose that this redeemed DNA plays a role in controlling when genes turn on and off.


...(there... that oughta hold the little buggers....)

42 comments:

Stefan Jones said...

I saw a couple of actual working "$100 Laptop" machines at the Maker Faire. They looked like . . . cheap laptops. I'd buy one, for travel, if it could access standard WiFi.

The preferred label for the scheme is the "One Laptop Per Child Project."

I'd love to see the project go on to make other cheap / durable / survivable IT-infrastructure gadgets, like slow-but-effective solar powered routers and repeaters.

* * *

I bought a bunch of solar / fuel cell stocks last year. Some have soared, others have dwadled.

The one that has done best: A Chinese photovoltaic manufacturer.

Zechariah said...

So maybe I won't have to wear protective glasses and hats in 2038 like in Earth? Or at least not more than now? Whew!

Tony Fisk said...

Stefan, I thought the OLPC could access wifi (in fact, it supports P2P meshes)

Yes, David seems to have had a rare (and welcome!) miss with ozone depletion effects in 2038. In fact, he states in the afterward of 'Earth' that he over dramatised the expected effects of greenhouse warming. Based on the latest reports, seems he didn't dramatise enough!

Ironically though, one of the climate modelling predictions predicted a net increase in Antarctic ice due to increased precipitation. This isn't happening because a stronger south polar vortex is blocking out the warmer, moist air. The strength of the vortex is believed to be due to .... the ozone hole!

('Oh! The foot bone's connected to the...')

Ah well! Here's another Earth hit (concerning 'dazers'):
Oxygen supplies for India police

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/07/technology/07copy.html?ex=1179201600&en=69c70399fc6dc794&ei=5070&emc=eta1

Oops. Broken link. I assume there was supposed to be a space technology Web page at that address. However, there is nothing of the sort at that address (looks like a login form, and basically content-free).

Someone please post the correct link. (A link that, when pasted into the browser, will lead immediately and directly to the content of the space-related article David Brin was obviously talking about and *thought* he was linking us to.)

Markbnj said...

A favor:
Not a humorous post:

The White house slipped a sneaky one on the US 2 weeks ago
Look HERE for original Press release:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070509-12.html

Apparently, we are no longer in a democracy.

Check out MY blog for the scariest news story of this decade.
http://markbnj.blogspot.com/2007/05/dictator-bush-lookie-at-latest_24.html

Essentially, it discusses the white house's new policy ALLOWING a
co-ordinator of national policy, in case of "emergency"

IT also Supercedes the ORIGINAL three part government, and will
allow this "dictator" to do whatever HE wants in both GOVERNMENT and
the Private sector.

Thank you for bearing with me in this boring, post, but the MORE people
(please send it to EVERYONE that you know, and EVERY editor/news person
you can think of...)

The Scariest thing is that there has been NOT even ONE story ANYWHERE on the web, besides on BLOGS

Search for NSPD 51 (the National Security Presidential Directive) order.

Very scary.
Thanks for reading, and forwarding this to the WORLD!
(and to your senator/representative in washington!)

Cheers:
Markb in NJ
(until the THOUGHT police pick me up!)

Markbnj said...

correction to that link in the white house (original source:
http://
www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070509-12.htm

and my word by word analysis HERE
http://
markbnj.blogspot.com/2007/05/dictator-bush-lookie-at-latest_24.html

get rid of space between the slash and the start of the site

BictonBoy said...

It is interesting that you mention leaded petrol and CFCs in the same entry. They were both created by the same guy - Thomas Midgley. His life story is interesting reading but basically it boils down to the fact that he "had more impact on the atmowphere than any other signle organism".

If you are into natural justice his life ended when he was strangled by an invention of his own making.

Anonymous said...

I once read a technical description of the $100 Laptop.

The interesting thing is, as I read it, I already had a $120 device in my pocket that could do almost everything that the magic $100 Laptop was supposed to do, even many of those that were supposed to have required a technological breakthrough.

It's called the Nintendo DS. ;)

Zechariah said...

Hmm, I think Markbnj may be overstating things just a bit. I shot through it as best as I could, and I didn't see this as a document giving Bush total power in case of emergency. At least, not more so than he already has with the ability to Establish Martial Law as required by "public safety".

I saw nothing in there about the order giving the president power to pass laws or pass judgement. It looked like it was him making preparations so the feds can organize and keep things working in an emergency. Like he failed to do after Katrina.

Your blog did not go point by point through the actual presidential order, as I expected it to. You just examined somebody else's examination of the document. Which didn't do me much good.

Zechariah said...

Can the Nintendo DS run Excel or word? or a compatible suite of office software like Corel? Because that's the only thing I need.

Nate said...

Once some clever nerd figures out how to install Linux on the DS, probably. :)

Like these guys are working on.

Sidereus said...

From bumper sticker to license plate?

Here in Red State USA (Indiana), an optional and controversial new license plate "In God We Trust" is flying out of the BMV:

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070424/LOCAL19/704240381

(Also spotted on the road were Secure Indiana and Support Our Troops license plates).

We have a variety of university license plates, an environment plate, etc. However, these require an additional fee (my environment plate was $40 extra). The In God We Trust license plate is free . . .

Stefan, my wife and I visited your lovely Portland again. Talk about opposite sides of the political spectrum! Great city.

To be fair, I did met a true loony vagabond at a bus stop who wore some sort of respiratory mask because "the government is spraying our fields at night with a sleep agent causing motorists to fall asleep at the wheel."

Portland - dense city streets, pedestrian-friendly AND great public transportation. “Liberal” atmosphere.

Indianapolis - large city blocks, terrible public transportation, urban sprawl. “Conservative” atmosphere.

Question: Are there any "conservative" cities which feature/promote great public transportation?

FYI - check out BBC's Planet Earth in high definition. Great cinematography.

Hawker Hurricane said...

sidereous...

My experience with cities is pretty limited to coastal towns... but...
San Diego - Conservative - mediorcre public transit.
Los Angeles - 'Liberal' - lousy public transit
Santa Barbara - Conservative - lousy public transit
San Fransisco - Liberal - excellent public transit
Portland - Liberal - good public transit
Honolulu - Liberal - poor public transit
NYC - Liberal - excellent public transit

So, no, I've never seen a conservative town with good public transit... BUT I have seen liberal towns with bad public transit.

(Note on Santa Barbara: The Navy base at Port Hueneme is 7 miles from the nearest movie theater/mall. You have to transfer between 3 buses to get to it, and the buses stop running to the mall at 7pm. Makes it hard to catch a movie.)

Anonymous said...

From that White House press release, emphasis mine: "(c) Defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic"

Time they arrested Dubya, then; this seems to give them the authority to throw him in Gitmo. ;)

Anonymous said...

"Oxygen supplies for India police"

I'm sure I saw an article 20-30 years ago about the traffic police in Japanese cities were being supplied with oxygen for the same reason.

- Captain Button
http://captain-button.livejournal.com/

Stefan Jones said...

I made a rare trip by car to downtown Portland today. Usually I use MAX, but I had two big bags of books to sell at Powells, and an errand* to run in the industrial area NW of downtown, so it seemed like a good idea.

Ungh. I forget what driving in a busy city is like. At least Powell's has a garage.

There's some interestingly contrained modern Big Box sprawl west of Portland. It's fairly well served by bus lines and a light rail line. More light rail and a commuter line is going south, to the tonier 'burbs.

* Turning a big sack of old batteries into the recycling center.

Sidereus said...

Anyone else complete an online profile assessment for potential employer? I just completed a "work style assessment inventory" which asked a series of 200 question, some redundant, regarding my emotional, leadership, etc., abilities. (I completed one of these in the past which also asked IQ-type questions.)

Evidently, this is a "weeding-out" process BEFORE being interviewed.

Will this (has this) filtered to other segments of society?:

BMV
School
Adoption agency
Guns
Airport
. . . President?

Just curious to know when (if) profiling is an acceptable.

Stefan, I noticed Portland is building an edition to the MAX. Wanted to mention in my earlier post that pedestrians, from our brief experience, were always given the right-of-way. As if the drivers were saying, "We should be walking as well - good for you."

I really hope this is not true:

Smithsonian allegedly altered warming exhibit
Ex-official says others worried about political fallout of Arctic show

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18789206/

I have many reasons for not supporting our current president but everyone on both sides should agree that politicizing science is absolutely offensive.

Sidereus said...

"Just curious to know when (if) profiling is an acceptable."

I meant to say when is it OK to check psychological profiles, if at all.

Nate said...

The biggest problem I have with those employer psychological tests is they're generally about as accurate as the "Which Firefly Character Are You?" type quizzes that fill most of LJ and other blogging sites. Which is to say, hardly at all. Seems like a silly way to decide who to hire.

Rob Perkins said...

I do not characterize Portland's public transit system as "good". But I compare it to Basel or Zurich in Switzerland, two cities in a country where it's possible to go almost anywhere without setting foot in a car.

I live "across town" from Stefan, though, and concur with the driving situation. But I think the transit buildout is not happening fast enough! We wasted far too much time and money on that skytram thing, which could have been extensions of the red and yellow MAX lines into Vancouver.

But decent enough. Whenever I have to, I take the MAX to get into town. Stefan, park at the Lloyd area and use the fareless zone to get to powells! Not too far to schlep books...

Anonymous said...

Eh -- extending a transit line in Portland (Oregon, I assume) all the way to Vancouver would both cross a national border and make it far longer than anything normally considered "rapid transit". (If you meant Portland, Maine, it's even worse.)

Brian Dunbar said...

Four decades later, after two versions of the Clean Air Act, the air is better.

My hard-won default mode of hopeful optimism is vindicated! Huzzah!

Note that this does not mean that I think we need to not work at - optimism is a hard state to maintain but worthwhile. Likewise a clean place to live.

Interestingly a fellow who reads my blog was surprised that I would rather see restored prairie instead of millions of acres of solar arrays. That is one reason I like solar power from space is because you can have wilderness areas and not industrial solar arrays.

And of course because solar power from space implies that we have cheap access to space. Which implies (tada) that the company I work for might be viable and not a footnote in history.

But why did he reach this conclusion? Because I am rather conservative on some social issues. As if being a demi-Republican means you want to pave over the Hundred Acre Woods.

Liberal City vs. Conservative City and public transportation. I think what that list really shows is that some places just aren't good candidates for public transportation.

Midwestern cities that sprawl over the horizon are not going to every be a mecca for subways. San Francisco is in no small part because it's not going anywhere and is hemmed in on three sides.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather see solar arrays on rooftops and highway easements, and railroad right-of-ways.

Only the outmoded concept of centralizing all of our electrical generation leads to lost wilderness for solar power.

Markbnj said...

Hey. markbnj here again.
Glad to see that the page is actually view-able.

I've Never been a conspiracy theorist before, but really am (forgive me...)worried about this NSPD 51.

Why is it there is absolutely NO press coverage of a presidential press release saying they are CHANGING the PREVIOUS existing system for dealing with national emergencies?

Also note that one chilling thing is that THIS was NOT a LAW passed by congress, but a PRESIDENTIAL Directive from the man who until november would NOT even FIRE donald Rumsfeld.

The press release is VERY significant, as I don't think it will be around that much longer.

I think that the HIGH CRIMES and Misdemeanors that have been committed by our current president are EXACTLY what was meant by the founders of our republic, when they defined impeachment.

Also, I think that Alberto Gonsales has gone past the point of misdemeanors and is now close to high crimes, if you take into account torture, illegal spying, inappropriate partisan hiring and other stuff...

all in all, a document coming from this president with THESE terms, SCARES the heck out of me, and I worry that he will NOT be leaving office on Jan 21,2009 like he is legally supposed to....

so now I guess I DO sound like a conspiracy theorist up to my neck in it.

I bet if I get arrested, I will never be allowed near a computer or the internet, let alone a word processor!

sigh

Brian Dunbar said...

I'd rather see solar arrays on rooftops and highway easements, and railroad right-of-ways.

That's fine for individual houses or even office buildings. But if you want to power factories and data centers you need more juice that you'll get from planting solar arrays on the roof.

Powering the civilization we've got takes a whole lotta arrays on land that you can't use for anything else.

It is always possible that this will change in the future with better arrays.

Only the outmoded concept of centralizing all of our electrical generation leads to lost wilderness for solar power.

Well, no. As I pointed out above modern factories eat up a lot of electricity. The power has to come from somewhere. Electrical generation on-site is a possibility but they are expensive to run and operate.

Take my day job as an example. We have eight manufacturing sites worldwide. Several of those are plants in the same city but not close to each other.

What we'd have to do is run a generator for each building. We're talking 19, give or take.

How is that more economical than the setup we've got now?

Rob Perkins said...

"Eh -- extending a transit line in Portland (Oregon, I assume) all the way to Vancouver would both cross a national border and make it far longer than anything normally considered "rapid transit". (If you meant Portland, Maine, it's even worse.)"

Google maps is your friend, my friend. Captain George Vancouver was more famous a guy than you have supposed.

Jumper said...

On the hundred-dollar "laptop," it reminds me that it's now possible for every kid in the world to have at his or her fingertips a device that will display EVERY AVAILABLE BIT OF KNOWLEDGE THAT HAS EVER BEEN WRITTEN that is no longer copyright protected. This is huge. (forgive my shouting caps, please - I get excited about this.)

It's estimated that all the asphalt in this country would be the size of a medium state. It's also estimated that enough solar energy would require the size of a medium state. (Less, actually) So if we only placed solar cells on both rooftops AND over all our asphalt, we would seem to have plenty of space already in use, and need consume no more space at all.

Stefan Jones said...

Not just factories . . . apartment and office buildings have a very high power usage to roof area ratio.

Even with solar cells on every roof, we'll still need a "grid" and some centralized, robust sources of power.

This fact shouldn't be used as an excuse not to put up those solar cells, or work on a decentralized, robust 21st century power infrastructure.

* * *

I used the credit I got for selling the books to Powells to buy a copy of The Assault on Reason.

Normally I stay waaaaayy away from books written by politicians. But the excerpts I read online had me intrigued.

I'm halfway into chapter two. It is highly readable, and I think Gore is dead-on. In a Great Minds Think Alike manner, he often sounds rather Brinnish.

Brian Dunbar said...

So if we only placed solar cells on both rooftops AND over all our asphalt, we would seem to have plenty of space already in use, and need consume no more space at all.

Without a cite it's difficult to know exactly what you're talking about but ... I think the figures you are looking at are for current energy needs not projected future needs. I could be wrong (humble is my middle name).

One argument for centralizing solar arrays is management. We take a medium sized state's worth of solar arrays and spread them all over the place and you've got a management problem when it comes to getting the power from them to the grid and with fixing them when they break.

What you've got is, really, the same problem that the railroad companies have - road to maintain that is all over the place.

It is a solvable problem but I wonder if anyone has bothered to run the numbers and see if it's more efficient and/or economical to have 'solar farms' or to have that stuff all over the place.

As I've gotten deeper into 'space elevators' and LiftPort the more I see that for every grand sweep of the arm to say "we should do this and that" there is a whole lotta pick and shovel work - with a lot of economic consequences - that goes on behind the scenes.

It's not enough to want it - you have to do the work to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

This solar stuff is tricky.

But not unsolvable.

Decentralized generation on rooftops and elsewhere is not unmanageable. It might be if a single company tried to own and manage it all. But if the individual owners of those buildings and the like own them individually, you'd get a "power Internet", without central control but muddling along reasonably well. If it were easy to install decent systems and maintain them, and doing so on your roof net you a much reduced hydro bill (or even, if you generated a surplus, an income), you'd have an incentive to put one up and keep it working.

Centralized farms could still have their place. The place that comes to mind being the Sahara. In fact, a bunch of poor (except where they have oil) tropical countries with coastal desert can become feelthy rich as net exporters of ... hydrogen. Given a global cap-and-trade market, they could also use abundant solar power to draw down carbon and become net carbon sinks -- on such a market, that is like being a major bank. Nay, it's like being able to print money! Of course the power can also be used domestically. Shipped abroad, once dense enough safe storage is achieved, the hydrogen can be used to generate power or as vehicle fuel (either in fuel cells or straight-up combustion). A hydrogen-fired electric plant would be much less polluting than an oil-fired one, let alone coal. Of course it's just releasing captured solar energy from a big panel farm in a desert somewhere. The Sahara is ideal, because there's a lot of otherwise-useless land with little biodiversity close to the Mediterranean waters. The major issue with this scheme is what to do with the surplus oxygen from splitting the water; some can be bottled for use by the economy and some can be released, but raising the planet's oxygen level too much leads to more dangerous fires (wild fires and otherwise), among other ill effects. On the plus side, it might improve health, speed the oxidative destruction of pollutants, and bolster the ozone layer... Of course, at any given time, the amount of extra oxygen present would match the amount of extracted but unconsumed hydrogen, so it would probably tend to a fixed amount of additional oxygen unless someone was stockpiling arbitrary amounts of hydrogen.

Space solar is a longer-term option. It requires a more robust industrial presence in space, but would help develop one as well. The major obstacle is military/political: a large collector beaming power to the earth in a narrow lance of radiation can obviously be (mis)used as a WMD "space laser" reminiscent of a certain recent James Bond film plot device. Nobody would want anyone else building one. Perhaps if a process were developed whereby it was controlled by a 2/3 vote of the UN or something, aimed normally at a receiving station in international waters, and all nations had access to the power (probably shipped in the form of hydrogen)...

Tony Fisk said...

A couple of points in favour of 'decentralised' solar power production systems:
- reduced transmission losses (currently est. ~7% for the US grid)
- reduced overall reliance on local weather
- demonstrable committment (many domestic installations would be a clear statement of popular support for solar power may encourage greater investment in larger arrays)
- social 'empowerment': not being beholden to megacorps utilities or desert fiefdoms (been there, done that, haven't we?)
- agility (a few tinkering zealots demonstrating better systems)

Of course, centralised systems also have advantages:
- economies of scale
- lower maintenance
- better quality control.

(All of the above goes for wind power, too... but perhaps not tidal!;-)


In fact, I think a solar future has room for both models.

As with a lot of things, the central/dispersed dichotomy is a false one.

Brian Dunbar said...

I don't say that dispersed solar collectors don't work, merely that there is a lot of details to work out before it can. I stipulate that people are in fact thinking hard about that stuff and I have not seen their work. Fair enough.

a large collector beaming power to the earth in a narrow lance of radiation can obviously be (mis)used as a WMD "space laser" reminiscent of a certain recent James Bond film plot device


It is my understanding that the beam is short radio waves or microwaves. Same stuff we've been using for decades now for long distance comms.

Proponents of SPS point out that the land under the rectenna can be used for grazing or crop production.

As for using the beam for E-vil - this is solvable.

1) open source the design so it can be proven that the beam can't be used for death and destruction.

2) public video feeds of the platform to demonstrate the plans and reality match.

3) Wasn't it Brin who went on about 'Transparant Society'?

4) A switch to turn the beam off if it wanders off target.

We don't need the UN or an international treaty, just many eyeballs.

Anonymous said...

Erm, a narrowly collimated beam of microwaves with the kind of power density you'd need to a) beam a meaningful amount of power down to earth and b) do so without a receiving dish as big as the solar array you're trying to avoid having on the ground will necessarily be able to cause quite a lot of damage. Don't think cell phone or radar; think microwave oven. :P

Andrew said...

You could design the system so the power transmission satellite has to receive a continuous stream of encryption codes (or even an OTP) transmitted by laser from the earth power-receiving site, in order to transmit energy. Put the photosensors in a long tube parallel to the power transmitter so if the satellite drifts a little (or is stolen) it won't transmit.


Or maybe put 50 tubes on it at different angles, aimed at several countries. Require a certain level of cooperation (say 45 participating countries) before anything gets transmitted.

ErnieG said...

Anon
Google is your friend
Proposed energy densities for the beam of microwaves (2.45Ghz) are the same as the leakage allowed by Microwave Ovens.

Do a little research please.

Andrew said...

@ernieg

Are you sure?

The FDA requirements are: "not exceed 1 milliwatt per square centimeter at any point 5 centimeters or more from the external surface of the oven, measured prior to acquisition by a purchaser, and, thereafter, 5 milliwatts per square centimeter at any such point."

That's 10-50 watts per square meter. On a good day, the sun give us over 600 watts per square meter.

What am I missing?

rev. billy bob gisher ©2005 said...

god, cut and paste is about as difficult as laying the links inline, only now, more repetions are required by multiples of people. i am familiar with the transfer of wealth, but not effort. i smell pulitzer!

so congradulations to the new patriarchy of html.

David Brin said...

Stefan, I thought alkaline batteries could simply go in the trash, these days? I've been collecting a big box, too. But ...

Portland NEEDS great public transit. The freeways were permanently built for a tiny city, long ago and impossible to enlarge for less than the cost of an Apollo Program.

I am increasingly interested in doing our own home solar array. Recommendatiuons welcome.

Gore? Brinnish? Still, I don't get invited to the same parties. Yeah, I know, I shouldn't be such a snob....

Stefan Jones said...

San Diego is probably a prime spot for home solar. Indeed...

I imagine there are local contractors that do the work. (In fact, lots . . . google for 'solar home "san diego".)

The trick, as with any contractor, is finding a good one. Finding the right one might mean contacting local solar enthusiasts.

Also, I know that there is a solar home magazine; a former co-worker wrote up his solar-home system.

Ah, here you go:

Solar Home Magazine

You'll need to contact your local utility somewhere along the line. There's a big advantage to signing up for time of use billing. You'll be selling power TO them during peak day hours, and buying some of it back at night at the cheap rates!

Tony Fisk said...

I've been pondering a rooftop solar collector for a while as well. I've held back because a year or two ago my back of the envelope calculations suggested a 40 year break even point! These days, I think it's more like 20 years. So, maybe next year...

In Oz, there's Green and Gold energy. These guys developed the 'Solar Ball', which tracks the sun and concentrates the radiation for improved efficiency. They have since gone on to develop this idea as an array of 'solar cubes', and appear to have gone into the solar farm industry. They don't sell these things direct to the public, but you can signal 'expressions of interest' when they actually get a solar farm going...

I can see the sense in this, but would prefer to see some sort of public access. The thought of buying your own cube (s) at a remote site unseen brings up cautionary visions of 'properties with beach frontage, in a mangrove swamp...'

Nevertheless, the site has a few bits of technical interest.

Stefan Jones said...

My parents were relatively early adopters of solar water heating. They installed a system back in the early 80s (?), when there was a big tax break.

After the tax break went away, the contractor went out of business, and we had to hunt around for a repair firm. As I recall, the system needed one major repair, and occasional tune-ups (fluid changes).

But it worked: In the Long Island winter, it "prewarmed" the water (say, to around 100 F / 38 C) so the oil-fueled burner didn't have as much work to do. In the summer, it churned out almost limitless amounts of 160 F water.

I imagine that in a sunny area, a solar water heater would deliver year-round.

ErnieG said...

Andrew
re MW intensity
That energy density is achieved at fence line of receiving rectenna (1 mw/cm^2). The highest intensity is about that of strongest sunlight: 100mw/cm^2

Some microwave intensity numbers:
Osha max workplace exp 10mw/cm^2
perceptible heat 30 mw
cataracts can occur 100mw same as sunlight
1000mw pain threshold
5000mw cooking occurs

Faraday cage shields completely, ordinary aluminum foil can form effective ~100% shield.
Get out your tinfoil hat!
So if misguided pilot flies airplane through beam no microwaves enter through aluminum skin, windows yes. But we are still talking max 100mw

Size of antenna assuming circle and 500W/M^2 or 50mw/cm^2 1.8 kilometer radius for 5 GW

Microwave intensity below open grid rectifying antenna < 10mw/cm^2 probably < 5 mw/cm^2

So land can be used for grazing or agriculture below antenna.

Long term exposure to 10mw no reported effects. As microwaves are a non ionizing radiation cancer effects are nil. Sunlight has UV which does cause cancer.

Oh yeah GSM cell phone can produce 1 watt at 0 cm to head,
this is at 1.8 Ghz