The Earth’s surface in sunlight in ideal conditions gets about 255 x 1011 W/m2. More than enough to power multiple countries. But, when that side of the earth is pointing away from the Sun, the energy drops to zero. To depend on solar power, there must be a substitute or storage option for that loss.
There must be a Planetary Power Grid. The active surface of the planet must supply a percentage of its power generation to the opposite side. The science and engineering of power grids are well understood. They just have to be bigger and more efficient, such as using superconducting cables, space based solar power, and microwave power relay stations.
This power grid will supply power to where it is most needed. A portion of the available energy is used to supply energy storage facilities in regions that have reduced economic activity due to the day/night cycle.
To be feasible, more sunlight capture and higher efficient voltaic generators are required. Until that can be accomplished: fossil, nuclear, wind, and other supplies will make up the difference.
This is huge task and a host of hurdles like technological, political, economic, and logistics. The cost is in the trillions. But, if the tipping point of climate change is approaching, nickle-and-dime approaches are not realistic. This really does requires a Green New Deal but for multiple countries to take part.
Estimated completion for total globe: 2053.
Increasing the irradiated solar cell area
Solar farms should be in the ocean. These are a mix of fixed offshore solar farms and floating Sun tracking systems.
When they are in the ocean the water could also be used for cooling and cleaning of the solar arrays. But this location must be engineered to have minimal negative ecological effects. Note that marine life does depend on solar energy. Blocking of sunlight would upset fragile oceanic ecologic systems and any kind of tower could impact bird migration patterns.
This same “MegaGrid” could be used for distribution of other energy sources like wind turbine, tidal, etc.
It’s just a simple multiplication of surface area by the energy density.
The surface area of the earth illuminated by the sun is approx 255,000,000 km2. That is just half of the total spherical area. The Sun’s energy at ground level is 1,000 W/m2.
So, that is 255,000,000,000 kW/m2 potentially available energy. Or, 255×10(11)W/m2.
After writing the above I did more web searching. Not a new concept after all! For example “Let’s Build a Global Power Grid”, https://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/the-smarter-grid/lets-build-a-global-power-grid
How a power grid works
- Portal:Renewable energy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Renewable_energy
- “The Sun’s Energy”, https://ag.tennessee.edu/solar/Pages/What%20Is%20Solar%20Energy/Sun’s%20Energy.aspx
- “What is the Surface Area of the Earth?”, https://www.universetoday.com/25756/surface-area-of-the-earth/
- Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032118303307?via%3Dihub
- Green New Deal
- Space-based solar power
How to reduce variability of solar power energy supply by Josef Betancourt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
One of the causes in low efficiency capturing solar radiation via solar cells is the reflection loss. A lot of research on this has resulted in many approaches such as nano-structures to reduce this reflection. An alternative is to embrace reflection. How?
The sun shines on a collector opening and this light is reflected down into a ‘pipe’ or channel. The angle of the reflectors cause the light to bounce from one side to another. Now instead of mirrors being used as reflectors, we use solar cells. Thus, instead of larger solar farms we would have wider and deeper light capture networks. Since the reflection occurs within the channel, this structure can be buried in the ground.
Unknown at this point are the parameters of this pipe or channel? Is this really feasible as large structures or only efficient at nano-scales?
© 2016 by Josef Betancourt. All rights reserved