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Power Technology

Japan Plans $21B Space Power Plant 550

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-can-it-pop-popcorn dept.
Mike writes "Japan has announced plans to send a $21 billion solar power generator into space that will be capable of producing one gigawatt of energy, or enough to power 294,000 homes. The project recently received support from Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and IHI Corp, who are now teaming up in the race to develop new technology within four years that can beam electricity back to Earth without the use of cables. Japan hopes to test a small solar satellite decked out with solar panels by the year 2015."
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Japan Plans $21B Space Power Plant

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  • ... of a recession in June? They must be high on life now ... spend spend away!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nickdwaters (1452675)
      Recession means "lack" of spending behavior, not "lack" of money. Often spending on promising technologies has important spin-off applications which bolster the economy / people spend money.
      • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:26PM (#29276455)

        Recession means "lack" of spending behavior, not "lack" of money. Often spending on promising technologies has important spin-off applications which bolster the economy / people spend money.

        That seems to be the exact opposite problem of what we have in America. We thought we had way more money that we even thought we had. When the magicians disappeared, all the make-believe money that was coursing through the veins of the economy dried up and caused the businesses who were relying on people spending that make-believe money to burn out and fail. It was the lack of money that caused the lack of spending, not the lack of things to buy.

        • by Bakkster (1529253) <Bakkster.man@gWELTYmail.com minus author> on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @03:24PM (#29277165)

          Recession means "lack" of spending behavior, not "lack" of money. Often spending on promising technologies has important spin-off applications which bolster the economy / people spend money.

          That seems to be the exact opposite problem of what we have in America. We thought we had way more money that we even thought we had. When the magicians disappeared, all the make-believe money that was coursing through the veins of the economy dried up and caused the businesses who were relying on people spending that make-believe money to burn out and fail. It was the lack of money that caused the lack of spending, not the lack of things to buy.

          Nope, it's exactly the problem. The economy was cruising right along while people were (over) spending. The entire reason that the auto industry is in tough times is because people have been reducing their spending and putting off their car purchases. The economy was just fine when we were spending money, the problem was the money was from credit based on overvalued assets (such as houses).

          This also explains why it takes time to get out of a recession. People need to spend money for companies to have the income to hire more employees, who can then buy other more stuff.

        • by vertinox (846076) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @03:59PM (#29277523)

          When the magicians disappeared, all the make-believe money that was coursing through the veins of the economy dried up and caused the businesses who were relying on people spending that make-believe money to burn out and fail.

          Money and wealth are arbitrary values of measurement set by society, businesses, government, or between individuals as it is.

          If you are trapped on an desert island with a suitcase full of gold, it won't seem that valuable compared to your neighbors crate of canned foods, or the guy with the can opener.

          That said, the gap between utility and wealth often becomes over extended and bubbles will happen.

          Just because society thinks something is valuable often does not increase its utility and the lack of value sometimes does not actually decrease utility of the commodity.

          Although, if you have organizations like the IRS, world's largest prison system, and nuclear weapons you can make your money valuable by simple force of will.

          Think about that next time you pay taxes or buy gas.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tverbeek (457094)
          All money is "make-believe money".
          I'm not a retrograde gold-standard-er, but I think it's importatnt to understand that "wealth" in the modern global economy exists only as an abstraction, and can vanish just by people losing faith in it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SETIGuy (33768)

          It was the lack of money that caused the lack of spending, not the lack of things to buy.

          The lack of money is just as imaginary as the abundance of money that preceded it.

          No. I don't know if I'm being funny or not. Why do you ask?

      • by benjamindees (441808) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:31PM (#29276539) Homepage

        How is it that Keynesians continue to absolutely fail to understand basic cause and effect and the free market? "Lack of spending behavior" is neither the definition or cause of the recession. It is the result of the lack of productive return over the last several years due to terrible investments. Recession is defined as negative GDP growth, or lack of improvement in production, not lack of spending.

        In this case, it's a terrible sign that the Japanese are so fed up with investing in the US that they now see hurling money into space as a better alternative.

        • by iluvcapra (782887) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @03:10PM (#29277029)

          In this case, it's a terrible sign that the Japanese are so fed up with investing in the US that they now see hurling money into space as a better alternative.

          Yeah but if it works, it'll generate income, there is a risk/reward here, unlike the Keynes "bury money in a mine" scenario.

          I could make a smartass remark here about how the US government decided to bury millions of dollars in cable underground in the 1960s, connecting universities and research institutions with an inefficient government boondoggle...

      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:47PM (#29276765)

        Recession means "lack" of spending behavior, not "lack" of money.

        No, actually, it doesn't mean either. It means an overall decline in economic activity across many dimensions taken together, the nearest thing to a single-dimensional rough definition is a decline in production rather than spending. A decline in spending usually occurs during a recession, but its not the same thing as a recession.

  • Robots (Score:3, Funny)

    by Abreu (173023) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:06PM (#29276133)

    I suggest using intelligent robots to manage the Space Power Plant.

    Of course, you need to be careful that they don't develop their own religion...

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      And don't send those two guys, what are their names? Obnoxous bozos, especially the one with the red hair. It's their fault that the robots got religious, you know. The dumbasses...

  • not impressed [iforce.co.nz]

    • If you don't find what you see on the picture you've linked impressive, something is wrong with you.

      Of course, that's just a drawing, so it's still just vaporware.

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:09PM (#29276193) Homepage

    To avoid repeating myself...

    http://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/space-power/

    • by Tekfactory (937086) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @03:10PM (#29277027) Homepage

      Just so we're clear

      SpaceX has published launch costs for the Falcon 9 Heavy @ $2,726 per pound, and Elon Musk testified before congress that they have plans to get costs down to $500 per pound.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        > Elon Musk testified before congress that they have plans to get costs down to $500 per pound.

        Yeah, so did a lot of people. Remember Orbital Sciences? IIRC they were saying $100/lb. Roton was what, $150/lb? Some of these guys said the same thing to Congress too. The Shuttle was going to $25. Hell, Rockwell was trying to get Congress to let him buy a Shuttle for tourist flights.

        Falcon 9 hasn't flown. It has not demonstrated safety, load capacity, turnaround times, manufacturing capability, payload handli

  • Cue Standard Replies (Score:5, Informative)

    by hardburn (141468) <hardburn AT wumpus-cave DOT net> on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:11PM (#29276225)

    If you are about to post anything about any of the issues below, please at least read the Wiki page on SBSP [wikipedia.org] first. Doing so will save a lot of electrons.

    • How do you beam the power
    • Give people cancer (or other safety issues)
    • Weaponization
    • Beam energy will be lost in transit, absorbed into the atmosphere, and contribute to global warming

    A basic understanding of the technology and physics will debunk all of these, and WikiPedia gives a good overview of these non-criticisms. Anyone continuing to parrot them below will be flogged.

    • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:20PM (#29276367)

      Those are all good links and all, but what will they do about the energy lost in transit, or otherwise absorbed into the atmosphere, and would by its very nature contribute to global warming?

      • by hardburn (141468)

        No. The main concern for climate change is that humans are causing a feedback cycle with CO2 that increases the total heat capacity of the system. Once you reach that heat capacity, extra heat just gets thrown into space.

        Additionally, any other power source you can imagine will have some efficiency lost as heat, and most of them will be quite a bit worse than beam losses and rectenna efficiency (which is around 90%).

    • by onkelonkel (560274) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:26PM (#29276465)
      What is there left to post? Any science or tech article outside of the IT world is guaranteed to produce an avalanche of specious, ill informed or just plain stupid comments. The best always point out some glaringly obvious non-flaw in the plan "Hurh, hurh, those scientists are so dumb. How are they going to beam solar power on a cloudy day? Bet they never thought of that. They're not so smart..."
    • That wiki page is useless. It says nothing about the danger of another Austin Powers sequel set in Japan and featuring a hijacked SPS.
    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @03:42PM (#29277343)

      If you are about to post anything about any of the issues below, please at least read the Wiki page on SBSP [wikipedia.org] first. Doing so will save a lot of electrons.

      I read your stupid link and it says nothing about the following:

      • The Japanese are doing this. What are the chances powersuits will be used in construction?
      • If powersuits are used, what are the chances that the best and most skilled operators will be teenage girls?
      • If the operators are teenage girls, what are the odds that the suits will be sheer and have the kind of curves that make us think the bad thoughts?
      • If the robot suits are sexy, what are the odds that they will have to be pressed into service as the last-ditch defense of humanity against aliens, evil robots, evil alien robots, and/or tentacle monsters?

      If all of the above comes to pass, I don't give a fuck what you say, the solar power sat will be upgraded into a death ray and it will be fucking AWESOME.

    • by rbrander (73222) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @04:25PM (#29277797) Homepage

      The wikipedia article is a little vague on the lost-in-transit question, noting only that you can beam it one mile at 80% efficiency.

      I found a paper on the subject the last time this came up on /. :

      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1069437&cid=26187965 [slashdot.org] ...that boiled down to just 45% transmission efficiency. Or, to get 1GW into the grid on Earth, you have to generate 2.2GW of electricity up in space. Some is lost converting to microwaves and is radiated away up there, some is lost in space before it gets to the atmosphere, some is lost in the atmosphere, some is lost in the reconversion to electricity from microwave. The last two losses come out as heat in the biosphere. A little under 1GW.

      And now for the important news: ALL electrical energy turns into heat except that which goes into making products like aluminum from aluminum ore...and even that turns back into heat in the very long run.

      More news: all electrical energy except hydro, anything that involves boiling water to turn turbines, runs at maybe 33% efficiency. You'd have to burn 3GW of uranium, or coal, or oil into heat to get out 1GW of electrical energy in any earth power plant.

      So, summary: to get 1GW of electricity by almost any means but hydro, you have to dump 2GW into the air or water, immediately, and the remaining 1GW goes into heat when it's used. This technology would dump less than 1GW into the environment immediately, and the other 1GW when it's used. Net SAVING of heat dump into the environment.

      And it doesn't matter. Larry Niven's warnings in Ringworld about the trillion Puppeteers "drowning in their own waste heat" to the contrary, waste heat is a tiny percentage of the global warming problem; almost all of it comes from trapping more normal solar heat in the biosphere.

  • USA DOD and FEMA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:14PM (#29276267) Journal
    The DOD, as well as FEMA, should be pushing to have several built for the America. This would actually enable more private launches, but also give the DOD a means to bring energy into areas that they need. Transportation of fuel is EXPENSIVE. The ability to bring power into a hurricane hit area will enable quick power. More importantly, the ability to beam energy will have to be developed. That would enable many of our construction and open pit mining vehicles to move off diesel. Basically, that would help to drive new innovations.
  • A better way of understanding about how much power this will supply is to compare it to other plants. Using that sort of measurement this will be about moderately sized. For example the Mohave Power Station http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohave_Power_Station [wikipedia.org] is slightly larger (I think) than normal for for a coal plant and produced 1.5 gigawatts. Another useful comparison is to look at how much it will cost (assuming it stays at budget). Under that metric this looks like it is orders of magnitude more expensi
  • Over $71k per household? I sure hope they have a plan that ends up with better economics. This thing smells suspiciously like one of those projects that doesn't make sense to anyone except the companies that are using taxpayer cash to do the work.
    • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:30PM (#29276527)

      Why is it that people on /. who live and breath new technology always have such a hard time with new technology economics? Why is it so hard to understand that new technology R & D is obscenely expensive relative to the commoditized versions that eventually follow. If everything was left to visionless people who focused solely on short term economics we'd still be living in the technological dark ages with a miserable quality of life.

      Before one nay-says, consider the benefits to society should the technology under discussion becomes an inexpensive commoditization.

      • by blueg3 (192743) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:37PM (#29276641)

        They don't live and breathe new technology -- they live and breathe commodity technology, and think of it as new because they have no familiarity with actual R&D.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by east coast (590680)
      Do you know how much the technology rights will be worth if they get this thing working? 21 billion doubtlessly includes R&D. Their return will be fantastic if they get it right.
  • I didn't think it could work but after looking at the picture in the article I can see it will be powerful enough. That satellite is almost twice as big as the Earth!

  • Comments sent from the future in Japan:

    It was like Godzilla came to life. I mean flames shooting from the sky, buildings colapsing in fire, people screaming, ...

    It was a subtle miscalculation, it could have happened to anybody... ...looking for the owners of the power platform, who have mysteriously disappeared...

  • Would it be feasible to put solar collectors outside of earths orbit which in turn transmit to earth orbiting satalties that then relay down.

    Could we put something closer to the Sun and leap from back to earth more effeciently than solar winds do?

  • I see that someone tagged this story "fried". Well, no.

    The microwave beam from a solar power satellite is not strong enough to fry things. It's stronger than sunlight but not scary strong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-based_solar_power#Safety [wikipedia.org]

    The land used for a power-receiving rectenna can still be used for raising cattle, without the cattle becoming super-powered mutants or getting cooked. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-based_solar_power#Earth-based_infrastructure [wikipedia.org]

    It remains to be seen when th

  • Those poor Japanese get screwed every which way but loose. They have been conditioned to pay $60 for a melon, and now $21 billion for something that will never work. And they don't complain!

    Think of this more as a big wet kiss for the Japanese space industry. Just like "Star Wars" was for our military-industrial complex.

    There's no way in heck this will ever get within a factor of 100 of being practical or economical.

  • Japan, 2015, orbital power stations and no mention of Gundam?

    I must be really old.

  • by Icegryphon (715550) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:41PM (#29276695)
    "The Agricultural Ministry is Not in Charge of Gundam"
  • by Firemouth (1360899) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @03:26PM (#29277197)
    I've played with this technology before and thing's didn't go so well. I was the mayor a city and we had a few hundred thousand people in it. Let's call them "Sims" to protect their identity. They were all bitching about how coal polluted the atmosphere and such. So one day after I was lounging around in my mayor's office this guy called me up and said "hey you should try this microwave energy stuff, it doesn't pollute." So I dropped some coin on this new technology, and everyone loved me.

    That is, until the beam got out of alignment and fried half of the town. Then a huge robot showed up and finished off the rest of the town. And just to add insult to injury, an 8.0 earth quake hit and swallowed up what was left of the city.

    Let that be a lesson to anyone who might want to try this technology.
  • Population (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AP31R0N (723649) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @03:56PM (#29277497)

    What will Japan's power consumption be in 10 to 20 years? They're having so few kids the population should be plummeting soon.

    We don't need more power, Mr. Scotty. We need FEWER PEOPLE. Pollution would be less of a problem if there were fewer people creating it. Cutting emissions, conserving and finding cleaner sources of energy while all very good... won't mean shit if our growth is still horrifically out of control. With a smaller population we'd have more resources per person and less waste generated.

    Similarly, there are no food or water shortages... there ARE places of the world that that too many people for the available resources. If we have 1 gallon per person per day at a population of 100,000... we'd have 2 gallons per person per day if the population of 50,000.

    i'm not talking about killing off people or even letting them die. i'm talking about getting the population to something that is sustainable. The quantity of life is going to start seriously farking with our quality of life... and THEN with the quantity. If we don't get it under control we're going to have more wars, more droughts, more everything that sucks.

    "easier said than done"

    Really? No kidding! Can i have your autograph before you win the Nobel Prize for Pointing out the Obvious?

    "But that's mean"

    Mean is kids dying of starvation because their parents had too many kids. Mean will be wars over water.

  • by HikingStick (878216) <<z01riemer> <at> <hotmail.com>> on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @04:00PM (#29277531)
    TOKYO - Residents have reported that giant reptile, Godzilla, was just struck down and apparently killed by a misdirected microwave beam from Japan's orbiting power generation satellite. The giant lizard fell in a residential area and caused substantial damage. Hundreds of people are missing and presumed dead.

    The Greenpeace and the International Humane Society have issued a joint statement criticizing the Japanese government for allowing their satellite to destroy the last specimen of this endangered species.

    Godzilla had a long history of appearing in Japanese cities, and often caused much damage with each visit. Typically, the creature appeared when some other monstrous threat appeared. Apart from the Windows 7 launch in Tokyo, no one is aware of any significant events that would have drawn the creature to the city.

    Because of his history as a destructive source, many people are glad to see the death of the giant lizard. A representative of the Japanese tourism ministry, however, is reported to have said that, "Godzilla's passing will have a profound affect on the people of Japan, and upon the Japanese tourist economy."

    Japanese street vendor, Aido Hawishinna, witnessed the event and reported, "It hit the buildings as it fell, and crashed just beyond my stand. It smells like baked fish. I wanted to be the first merchant in the city to sell Godzilla-burgers, but the police and army will not let me harvest the meat before it spoils."

    The Japanese government, in an official statement issued hours after the incident, announced that it plans to conduct an autopsy on the remains, to determine if Godzilla's death was related to problems on the orbital microwave power platform.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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