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Renewable Energy

Last week, I left us the problem of powering the future without destroying the environment.   Destroying the environment can mean carbon pollution, and nuclear waste. It can mean the environment-altering engineering of hydroelectric power dams, fields of solar panels, or sprouting windmills.

Solar panels on a house or other building as part of the built environment make perfect sense.  Thank of when you see acres and acres of solar panels.

Those panels prevent life from growing.  You can’t let trees grow; the trees will topple the panels.  You won’t see any buffalo roam there.

Where can we build and not be disturbing the environment?

It was the late 60s. The environmental movement was starting.  Gerard K. O’Neil was discussing the environment with his students and gave them a challenge.  If we’re destroying the environment, where is the best place for an industrial society?

They responded to his challenge, and after hard work they suggested empty space: completely outside the biosphere.

You’re not destroying the existing environment in empty space.  Nothing is there to destroy.   You have access to sunlight day or night; no clouds restrict the sunlight. You can build stupendously enormous
solar panels in the microgravity of orbit, dwarfing anything you could build on earth.

Mining from the moon and asteroids means even less destruction of the Earth’s environment.

The society in space wouldn’t be destroying the environment, but not everyone can lift off tomorrow. Will we leave them to continue destroying the environment for their energy needs?

A society in space can build solar panel satellites and place them in Earth orbit to beam energy to receivers on Earth.   We don’t beam a lot of energy on Earth today. You may have seen induction chargers for a newer cell phone.

If your cell phone has this feature, it’s very convenient to place your phone on a pad and let it charge.  No need to plug it in.

Those satellites could take care of Earth’s energy needs without the need for huge swathes of land.

What do you think?  Can we build a platform in space, collect energy and beam it to Earth?   Respond in the comments below.