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Power Space Technology

Energy-Beaming Space Collector To Also Alter Weather? 274

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the don't-microwave-me-bro dept.
Recently we covered California utility company PG&E's ambitious deal with upstart Solaren to beam energy to earth from a space-based solar collector. What we didn't know is Solaren's patent also covers the alteration of weather elements with that very same system. "By heating up the upper and middle levels of an infant hurricane, they say they could disrupt the flows of air that power the enormous storms. Air warmed by tropical waters flows up through a hurricane and is vented through the eye into the upper atmosphere. Theoretically, you could heat up the top of the storm and lower the pressure differential between layers, resulting in a weaker storm. "
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Energy-Beaming Space Collector To Also Alter Weather?

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  • Re:Whoop de doo (Score:5, Informative)

    by shogun (657) on Monday April 20, 2009 @01:09PM (#27649309)

    Speaking of chemtrails, what's the explanation for the "contrails" cutting off as the plane continues to climb? Anyone? It's not covered in the FAA's brochure on contrail formation that they brought out to try to kill the chemtrail conspiracy theory.

    Different levels of the atmosphere are at different temperatures,pressures and humidity which all have different contrail forming tendancies. These layers can sometimes be very sharply defined so as a plane rising up through a layer where a contrail is easily formed hits a layer where the ability to form a visible contrail is sharply diminished so the (visible) contrail abruptly cuts off.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Monday April 20, 2009 @01:22PM (#27649557)

    No, no, no, no, no. Hurricanes are driven by the warm air released from condensation in their centers. This causes low pressure at that location, leading to swirling motions and inflow at low altitude.

    Adding more heat at the center of the hurricane will make the hurricane *STRONGER*. It doesn't matter what altitude you add the heat.

    Keep your orbital death ray away from my weather until you've taken a basic meteorology course, morons.

  • Re:Whoop de doo (Score:5, Informative)

    by cwebster (100824) on Monday April 20, 2009 @01:43PM (#27649925)

    Speaking of chemtrails, what's the explanation for the "contrails" cutting off as the plane continues to climb? Anyone? It's not covered in the FAA's brochure on contrail formation that they brought out to try to kill the chemtrail conspiracy theory.

    Our engines put out particulate matter as a byproduct of combustion (same as your car). If we fly through an area with high enough relative humidity, then water will condense on the particles and form "contrails". If you look at a temperature and dewpoint sounding on a Skew-T/Log-P chart, you can see that both vary quite a bit with altitude and form distinct layers (in reference to moisture content and stability). Some combinations are good for forming countrails, some are not. Remember, a contrail is just a specific kind of cloud, and so the reasoning is the same as "why does a cloud form here, but not also here?".

    But take my word with a grain of salt, since I am both an airline pilot and study meteorology.

  • Re:Airplanes? (Score:4, Informative)

    by argent (18001) <peterNO@SPAMslashdot.2006.taronga.com> on Monday April 20, 2009 @01:44PM (#27649937) Homepage Journal

    The peak power density at the center of the beam at it intersects the rectenna is on the order of 300 watts per square meter (W/m2) or 30 miliwatts per square centimeter (mW/cm2).

    Studies have shown that at 25mW/cm2, some birds exhibit behaviors suggesting they might be able to detect microwave radiation. If true, some migratory birds, flying above the rectenna, might suffer disruption of their flying paths.

    This is from a NASA study of the safety of space-based solar power. I believe the original studies were done in the '70s because I recall almost identical wording from a glossy NASA coffee-table book on space colonies I picked up at the Smithsonian in 1978.

    That's not "death ray" levels. Planes are probably OK, but it could be a problem for birds.

    Another point that occurs to me: solar insolation at the equator is around 1kW/m2. The tests mentioned above are 25% of that level. I suspect that the birds were becoming uncomfortably warm.

  • Re:Lots o' power (Score:5, Informative)

    by Robotbeat (461248) on Monday April 20, 2009 @01:47PM (#27650007) Journal

    Reality doesn't work like that. Science is not some sort of alchemy where any "good" that you do has to be balanced with "bad" done elsewhere. Sure, entropy always increases, but that doesn't mean that lessening the impact of a natural disaster means you're upsetting some karmic balance. Every day without a hurricane does not increase the intensity of the next hurricane. Hurricanes are only one way that heat can be transported from the ocean's surface to elsewhere.

  • Re:Lots o' power (Score:4, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 20, 2009 @02:28PM (#27650709) Homepage Journal

    That's gonna need to be an *awfully* big collector

    Nah. I spoke with a space/nuclear engineer on this once. He had worked it out in grad school using a Brayton cycle engine. (i.e. closed loop gas turbine) The engine itself is extremely power dense and would have more mass for cooling than heating. (Think large fins on the dark side, running fluids through to exhaust heat as black body radiation.)

    The trick to collecting large amounts of sunlight would be massive mylar sails. The sails would be deployed as large mirrors. These mirrors would reflect the solar energy toward the power-producing engine. This way you could get a massive footprint in space while still having a relatively light launch package.

    His idea was better than mine; which was to construct a massive Stirling engine near the sun to absorb 3GW of power at near-failure temperatures. :-P

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