The Intellectual Wilderness There is nothing more useless than doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

2021.10.26 11:54

Space-Based Solar Done Right

Anyone who gives a bit of honest thought to the so-called “renewable energy” market cannot escape the conclusion that the vast majority of it is fake — politicians creating a moral panic to grant themselves unquestionable authority over appropriations and then handing appropriated funds over to losing ventures run by their friends and family that they themselves retire into as directors and board members. It’s a genius scam as scams go, but suffers from the fatal flaw of all scams: it accelerates the tragedy of the commons.

Imagine that, a scam that worsens the more general category of problems it claims to make better.

That said… “sustainable energy” is a genuine issue. Why use this other term? Because words mean things and there is literally no such thing as “renewable energy” as energy use is disruptive and we live in an entropic universe that mandates that energy cannot be renewed. This isn’t just an abstract philosophical idea, it’s physical law. Energy use can, however, be sustained over any foreseeable period of a future where humanity continues to thrive and that’s something we can think seriously about and come up with solutions for.

Terrestrially it is pretty clear that we have no idea what is going on with climate in any real sense and that we have almost completely prohibited ourselves from thinking clearly about climate change by moralizing it as a political issue. I am therefore going to ignore the idea of emissions and atmospheric content for just a moment and talk strictly about two things we know from general planetary science (studying other planets and planetoids):

  • Exposure to solar radiation correlates strongly with surface temperature
  • Atmospheric pressure correlates strongly with surface temperature

This means that even if I completely ignore carbon emissions (and health) that fossil fuels and other non-petroleum hydrocarbon use releases, these sources are also finite and have their own limitations regardless of the ZOMG DA CARBONSES moral panic. This also means that while I can accept that terrestrial power generation using atomic generation makes a lot of sense from a sustainable energy perspective, it still has limitations of scale: it is imaginable that we could simply use up the finite amount of available fuels at some point and/or find it difficult to build the sheer number of plants necessary to supply all of our energy needs (much less transmit the power once generated).

Terrestrial solar energy, wind power, various forms of ethanol, tidal power, current power, hydroelectric dams, etc. are all interesting but suffer from the same finiteness and scale problems that hydrocarbons and nuclear power have, but have an even greater and very direct environmentally disruptive impact by massive conversion of land use at scales never seen in human history. It just isn’t sustainable, much less reliable 24/7.

The bottom line is we need another solution for energy resources, and there just happens to be a massive nuclear furnace just a 150 gigameters away. Plenty of people have noted the obvious problems with terrestrial solar power and thought “Oh, hey, what if we just put solar farms into space and beam it back with lasers or microwaves?” In fact, Isaac Asimov gave quite a lot of thought to the idea and recently the idea has resurfaced across pop-sci media for whatever reason.

There is just one problem: While we don’t know anything for certain about the effects of “greenhouse gasses” we are quite certain about the effects of solar radiation — and solar farms in space effectively increase the radiation collecting surface of the planet.

To be clear: Space-based solar power that is beamed back to the planet literally microwaves Earth.

We can argue back and forth all day about the effects of carbon emissions on the climate, but one thing we cannot escape is the conclusion that increasing the surface area exposed to the Sun to any economically significant degree will have a warming effect on the planet.

Oh noes! I just shot down the great salvation of the human race! However can we still run PoW cryptofarms and transcoding servers for OnlyFans camwhores in AWS and Runscape servers and sexbot factories if we can’t access the delicious space power?!? The solution is actually quite easy and obvious: Put the hot process in space along with the solar arrays.

My prediction is that humanity will eventually begin building not just some, but the majority of server farms, data mines, and even industrial production sites in space. Continuing to put it all at the bottom of the terrestrial gravity well that we have a very strong desire to preserve is clearly not a sustainable idea. Space-based industry eliminates pollution issues, emissions concerns, is truly sustainable, and won’t microwave the planet.

The main problem with this idea is that people are retarded and don’t understand how non-crazy this concept is, and probably won’t until someone already has a set of self-powering and massively profitable space-based data services and perhaps even fabrication facilities in space — at which point the public will turn on them as “greedy rich people” and start moralizing about [random distraction] until the whole thing breaks down and has to be remade.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today. Enjoy the crash!

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