Technical Ignorami

And the sustainable development/energy folks wonder why they can’t get us to take them seriously.

Check out this bit of technological illiteracy in an FAQ on energy sources:

Why don’t we build a solar plant on the moon and beam the energy back to Earth?

We don’t do this for the same reason we don’t cover North Dakota with wind turbines to supply the whole country with electricity; transmission costs. Disregarding the insanely expensive cost of building a solar plant on the moon, transmitting this energy back would be technically impossible. In addition, with the rotation of the moon and the earth as they are, the transmission cables would quickly become terribly tangled.

But wait–if they use “transmission lines,” then it’s not technically impossible, just difficult. Of course, it would only occur to idiots like this to use transmission lines, and of course the question said nothing about transmission lines–it asked about beaming power.

“Beaming” electricity is not quite the same as beaming Scotty up to the Enterprise.

True. Unlike beaming Scotty, it’s actually been demonstrated, with 90% efficiency…

Electricity travels along transmission cables that are inefficient and very expensive: high voltage cables can cost thousands of dollars per mile. [42] If we could devise a way to efficiently “beam” electricity without transmission cables, we would be utilizing this technology first to connect earthbound power plants with various earthbound consumers.

Except for that nasty little line-of-sight problem…

They don’t seem to have any concept of using the right tool for the job. Of course, where you can, you use transmission lines, because they’re more efficient than beaming. But if you can’t, then beaming may be good enough.

Perhaps a better idea would be to build solar plants on the earth and then just keep the energy here.

Except that the sun goes out at night, and it’s diminished by clouds, and not all latitudes get decent sunlight, and…

The problem with terrestrial solar is the storage problem. It can’t provide reliable 24/7 power, and it will always be a marginal, decentralized source until we can come up with cost-effective ways to store large amounts of energy.

It is true that the sunlight on the moon’s surface can be more intense than on the earth’s surface, due to its lack of atmosphere, but this greater intensity does not justify the R&D effort that would be required to pursue extra-terrestrial capture of solar energy for use on earth.

No, it doesn’t. Of course “intensity” is not the reason that gathering power in space is potentially attractive, as the numbskull who wrote this would have learned from even a cursury glance at the abundant available literature.

The interesting features of space power are that it’s available continuously, there’s no weather to interfere with it, and you can get much higher effective power densities at the ground collector than with terrestrial solar.

Furthermore since most industrialized countries experience power losses of about 10% between the generating plant and the customer, which is only at most in the hundreds of kilometers, there is no way the energy would be still coursing through the transmission cables after the 384,400 kilometers it would have to travel from the moon to the earth. [43] [44]

Not just ignorance, but willful ignorance because, as I said, a quick google would have revealed how stupid a statement this is.

But these people live in their own little world, and when they hear about an idea, they don’t bother to actually research it, or give it any serious thought or analysis (though it’s not obvious in this case that whoever wrote this nonsense is even capable of it, either from an intelligence, or knowledge standpoint), because its politically incorrect. Unlimited power from space implies that we don’t have to live in their little “sustainable” renewable gulag, that we don’t have to give up our SUVs, that we don’t have to start splitting our own wood.

There are serious critiques to be made of space-based power (particularly from the Moon), and I’m on the fence as to whether or not it’s a viable future energy source, but this is simply pathetic.