Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Speaking of unsustainable ways to sustainability

Following up on the Palm oil biodiesel post, here's an idea which should probably be squashed: Space 'spiders' could build solar satellites:
A mission to determine whether spider-like robots could construct complex structures in space is set to launch in January 2006. The spider bots could build large structures by crawling over a "web" released from a larger spacecraft.

The engineers behind the project hope the robots will eventually be used to construct colossal solar panels for satellites that will transmit solar energy back to Earth. The satellites could reflect and concentrate the Sun's rays to a receiving station on Earth or perhaps beam energy down in the form of microwaves.
A satellite capable of beaming one billion watts of solar-generated electricity back to Earth would probably need a solar panel with an area of one square kilometre. But spider robots could also be used to build massive communication antennas or a shield to protect satellites from orbiting space junk.
Yeah--space junk like massive communications antennas or giant solar panels.

More than enough sunlight hits the earth's surface to provide for all of our currently extravagant needs--hundreds of times over. There is no need to effectively extend that surface area for the purpose of beaming yet more energy to an already overheated planet. Also, just launching the solar panels and the spiders into orbit will take huge amounts of energy.

The experiment is being conducted by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, but I'll bet there is some Pentagon money and interest behind it. I don't think that space-based solar panels will have any place in a sustainable future.