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#26 2002-11-21 06:06:42

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Power generation on Mars

Hi Phobos!
    Yes, you're right about Germany having done a lot to research on 'solar chimneys'.

    An Australian company called Enviromission has exclusive rights to the technology here in Australia, and plans to start building the first tower near Mildura, which is on the border between New South Wales and Victoria.

    They call it a solar thermal power station and it will generate 200MW of electricity - enough to power about 200,000 homes. The actual tower will be the tallest structure ever built, at a height of 1 kilometre.
    They plan to build several more over the following 5 to 10 years, which will provide a substantial proportion of Australia's power needs, but with no greenhouse emissions and no chance of running out of fuel (fossil or otherwise) !!

    I think it's just about the best thing since processed cheese (! ) and have serious plans to buy shares in the company.
                                          tongue


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#27 2002-11-21 07:12:07

Byron
Member
From: Florida, USA
Registered: 2002-05-16
Posts: 844

Re: Power generation on Mars

I was just reading about this "solar tower" in Popular Science..what a cool idea! 

If this company was smart, they would construct the first tower as a tourist attraction as well, imagine going up to a kilometer-high observation platform!  I've been to the CN Tower in Toronto, which is just under a half kilometer...so it's tough for me to imagine a tower more than twice as tall as that...wow!

If this idea works in Australia, hopefully this firm will start putting those things up in the American Southwest...goodness knows how much we need 'green' sources of energy..the energy hogs that we are!

B

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#28 2002-11-23 01:28:59

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Power generation on Mars

They call it a solar thermal power station and it will generate 200MW of electricity - enough to power about 200,000 homes. The actual tower will be the tallest structure ever built, at a height of 1 kilometre.
   They plan to build several more over the following 5 to 10 years, which will provide a substantial proportion of Australia's power needs, but with no greenhouse emissions and no chance of running out of fuel (fossil or otherwise) !!

Wow, I was under the impression that the solar chimney idea was pretty much dead.   Did they say how wide the structure was by any chance?  If they can leave the floor of the chimney all soil they could grow crops that are useful as fuel.  I can't wait to see that thing when it's built.  I might have to make a special trip to Australia to see it.  Before I'm turned into fertilizer I think I'll make it a goal to see this giant powerplant and of course the space elevator when it's built.  Brad Edwards already said he'd facilitate tourists so he better not let me down! big_smile


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#29 2002-11-24 13:28:32

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Power generation on Mars

I was milling around the Enviromission website and it appears growing crops under their particular design would be an idiotic venture to put it lightly, but since the towers themselves are concrete I bet the power output could be boosted immensely if they were to be plated with those 70% efficient solar cells.  1km of concrete tower should provide plenty of space for these solar cells to generate significant power.  I'm wondering if they plan to only have the turbines toward the base of the tower though.  In other solar chimney designs I've seen, turbines were placed all the way up the sides of the tower's interior.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#30 2002-11-25 01:00:45

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Power generation on Mars

Hi Phobos!

    Thanks for showing an interest in this solar tower thing - I agree with you when you say: "Wow ..."!!

    I did find out how wide the solar collector part of the structure is to be, but can't locate the site now. But it's some 4 kilometres across, or thereabouts, I believe. There will be many hectares of transparent panels to create the hot air.

    I imagine the turbines are best located low down at the base of the tower for ease of access. Maintenance would be too hard if they were higher up in the tower itself.

    I can't recall anything about growing crops under the collector panels. It seems to me it would be an uncomfortably dessicating environment ... too hot and windy for most plants to survive. But don't quote me on that!
    All I know is, the last time I was in Mildura the temperature reached 43 deg.C by mid-afternoon. That's about 109.5 deg.F !!
    Now this solar tower is supposed to raise the temperature of the air inside it to 35 deg.C higher than ambient. That would mean, at the height of summer, air temperatures up to about 77 deg.C at the turbines!!! (About 170 deg.F.)

    If you're going to make the journey to see this monster, Phobos, I might just see you there! This is one thing I simply gotta see before I die, too!!

                                          big_smile


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#31 2002-11-25 02:08:40

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Power generation on Mars

If you're going to make the journey to see this monster, Phobos, I might just see you there! This is one thing I simply gotta see before I die, too!!

That would be cool.  I'll pull you back in case the thing sucks you in or vice versa. smile


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#32 2002-11-25 02:09:27

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Power generation on Mars

It appears messages are already getting sucked in!


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#33 2002-11-25 17:46:56

soph
Member
Registered: 2002-11-24
Posts: 1,492

Re: Power generation on Mars

i have to say, i think fusion is the way to go.  with the breakthroughs experienced in fusion technology, i dont think its unreasonable to believe that fusion should be a viable option in 20 years--by the time large scale power would be needed.  fusion needs a minimum of fuel to produce huge amounts of power, which is a huge upside for a colony that needs to use every resource. 

with the mars direct plan, each lander comes with a reactor, albeit small.  these could probably last until a real reactor is needed, at which point i believe fusion will be viable.

on a side note, how hard would it be, if at all feasible, to convert a fission reactor to fusion?  if this is possible, fission reactors could be used on earth and on mars, until fusion is ready, and then reactors could be converted.

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#34 2002-11-25 19:00:21

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Power generation on Mars

Fusion energy research should be recieving a lot more funding than it currently does even though I wonder if it'll ever be fully accepted considering that the plasma facing walls become radioactive.  Anyhow, I love these solar thermal plants but the one thing about them that bothers me is the huge amount of land they need, but since fission is politically unviable I think these plants are a good alternative until fusion becomes a reality.  I'm thinking these solar plants might be useful if we were to line the equator with them.  Floating them on the ocean might present too much of an engineering nightmare though. smile


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#35 2002-11-29 17:42:55

dicktice
Member
From: Nova Scotia, Canada
Registered: 2002-11-01
Posts: 1,764

Re: Power generation on Mars

As for wind-generated electrical power: Vertical wind-tunnels using Martian atmosphere in stretches of unpressurized canyon tributaries, with multistage turbo-electric generators within their bases, driven by the flow of Martian "air" warmed beneath low transparent roofs, with guy-wires from high canyon sides to prevent the kilometre-high "chimneys" from falling over.
  With enough area roofed, the accumulated warmth could be made sufficient to supply electricity even during nighttime. East-west canyon alignment would of course be advisable for maximum solar exposure time, and trickle-charged battery and/or fuel cell alternatives (during duststorms) provided for.

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#36 2002-12-01 14:42:26

Josh Cryer
Administrator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

Re: Power generation on Mars

Hey, I bet we could put a solar tower inside of a bubble / dome. The dome would have to have a way to radiate away the heat, I suspect (so that thermal equlibrium wouldn't be reached within the dome), but I don't think this would be too hard.

We could pump midol to the top of the dome, or have large aluminum radiator fin type thingies (not an elegant solution, though). Then again, perhaps a dome would naturally radiate lots of heat.

Anyone have any numbers on thermal radiation? How long it would take for a dome to heat up, etc?


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

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#37 2002-12-02 12:59:23

lzrdking
Member
From: Illinois
Registered: 2002-11-26
Posts: 7

Re: Power generation on Mars

ok ya'll. as much as I think a nuclear reator would be the best bet to begin a primary colony on Mars, as anyone considered the shielding and safety measures nevermind the testing of nuclear materials in space. Even someone with limited knowlegde of radioactive/nuclear information could see that extensive testing would need to take place prior to even putting something like that in LEO. Sure subs and carriers have it but there is a big difference between 1.5 miles below the water and 26 miles in the atmosphere. So its really impairitive to find an alternative energy sourse. As a suggestion, using Zubrin's methane/O2 mixture could provide a safer and more affordable path to producing energy on Mars. And when the technology comes that we can safely put a reator in space, then by all means do it and I'd be the first one to support it.

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#38 2003-01-14 16:47:19

Sir Bloxham
Member
From: Auckland, New Zealand
Registered: 2003-01-14
Posts: 5

Re: Power generation on Mars

After realizing the peaks of all four martian mount's are in permanent contact with the martian jet streams, I wondered if these mount's could be used for the construction of great tubes or chimneys, running from base to summit. Perhaps launch tubes constructed on these mount's could be used for power generation during the off-season?

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#39 2003-01-21 09:41:52

soph
Member
Registered: 2002-11-24
Posts: 1,492

Re: Power generation on Mars

Nuclear is not out.  If it is built within proper containment facilities, nothing is contaminated.  At Three Mile Island, nothing was contaminated.  No, nuclear should be our primary option.

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#40 2003-01-21 10:37:32

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Power generation on Mars

Rion, are you doing better than these people?

Microbial fuel cell

Feeding it compost would be way cool. . .

Still -- I would rather have a nice Rickover derived nuke pumping out those kilowatts.

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#41 2003-01-22 05:19:32

soph
Member
Registered: 2002-11-24
Posts: 1,492

Re: Power generation on Mars

When you plan a mission, you dont plan for something to fail, you plan for it to succeed.  There are any number of risks on a chemical spacecraft that could blow up the ship and spread waste chemicals.  Its called a necessary risk.

Nuclear fission doesnt just meltdown by itself.  It simply doesnt happen.  The whole fear of a meltdown is played up.  Neither major nuclear accident had anything to do with the actual reaction....so i really think this is a needless fear.

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#42 2003-01-22 10:18:22

Lil_vader
Member
Registered: 2001-09-06
Posts: 33

Re: Power generation on Mars

"When you plan a mission, you dont plan for something to fail, you plan for it to succeed."

And then, you wake up and realize that $!#T happens, and to deny that is suicide.

You *plan* for the worst. You *hope* for the best. I'm not getting in any spacecraft that was designed by someone who assumed everything would go perfectly.

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#43 2003-01-22 14:31:37

soph
Member
Registered: 2002-11-24
Posts: 1,492

Re: Power generation on Mars

what if you were able to shut down the reactor during the landing?  You could use temporary battery power, or solar power.  Then, if the reactor is damaged, it doesnt melt down. 

Second, the natural heat generated by fission should be sufficient to keep the plant warm.  But I dont see why you cant be able to keep the reactor free of outside dust.  This really shouldnt be a problem.

I can be an electronics specialist, or a pilot or whatever on the mission, and also know how to manage a life support system or manage our food supply, but in order to safely operate the reactor I would have to be a nuclear engineer first and foremost.

i really dont think thats true.  You could be knowledgable in nuclear engineering and be a doctor, electrician, and so on.

yes vader, you plan contingencies for the worst.  but like i said, if you could shut down the reactor during landing, there shouldnt be a problem. 

Maybe you cant design a reactor as hard as a rock, but you can give it adequate shielding, and pad it for the landing.  All kinds of fragile equipment survived landing on Apollo, its just a matter of proper design.  Im not saying we should be careless, we should take caution, but this is necessary.

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#44 2003-01-22 21:02:31

soph
Member
Registered: 2002-11-24
Posts: 1,492

Re: Power generation on Mars

okay, so we use a surface reactor, but we dont use it in flight.  Sounds good, we just ship it, inactive the whole way so everything is separate and safe.

Next, how about we use a separate, smaller plant in flight, which stays in orbit with the part of the ship we leave in orbit, as we discussed?  This would provide a decent bit of power for recreation and lab activites, and would allow quite a bit more options.  we could, of course, combine this with exterior solar panels, but any extra bit of energy is nice.

so, we have a surface reactor that provides power.  we could also explore other power options, to augment this initial reactor, to make it last longer, and to allow quicker expansion.  The longer we have to put off sending another reactor, the better.  Cost will be of the essence.

We could also have Earth send out a plant every five or ten years in exchange for, say, research data, or materials.

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#45 2003-01-23 02:27:11

RobS
Member
From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
Posts: 1,701
Website

Re: Power generation on Mars

The Mars Direct plan assumes that the reactor is not turned on until after landing and that solar power is used on the flight out. I think this makes sense because the new high-efficiency solar panels, coupled with continuous light in space, probably makes panels lighter in weight than a reactor. Certainly they are more reliable because if one panel fails you lose less than 1% of your power, but the reactor could have a catstrophic failure (however unlikely).

Nuclear is better on the surface, though because of nightfall, dust storms, and lower mass heat rejection systems. You can use Martian air as a coolant on the surface, but in space you need big, heavy cooling panels full of circulating fluid.

The main need of the nuke is in in situ resource utilization. Methane-oxygen fuel requires something like five kilowatt hours per kilogram produced. Solar panels could provide emergency backup for life support, but not for fuel manufacture.

Mars Direct calls for two earth return vehicles landed on the surface in connection with the first human landing, both with reactors, so the Mars station would have redundant nuclear power sources, anyway.

       -- RobS

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#46 2003-01-23 17:56:03

Tyr
Member
Registered: 2002-09-14
Posts: 83

Re: Power generation on Mars

check out www.spheralsolar.com   They have low mass solar panels made of silicon microspheres mounted in foil.  They are lighter that ordinary panels and are flexible.  A combination of solar, winds (how much will a windmill weigh versus the potential energy return?) and nukes until we can drill for areothermal seems like the right path.

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#47 2003-01-25 01:48:35

orionblade
Member
From: Hampton Virginia
Registered: 2003-01-14
Posts: 60

Re: Power generation on Mars

I think i could rig up a windmill filled with hydrogen, maybe made of a vynil compound similar to those big beer bottles you find inflated in quickie marts and bars, that would provide a decent amount of power, but more importantly, would be self supporting with a tether. Also, it would only weigh as much as its skin, as opposed to a "real" windmill which would utilize a rigid structure and a support pylon. Really the windmill would be supplemental, and used only when you needed lighting.
      I think crops could be grown using martian light, but if you're carrying all your food with you it shouldn't be an issue. If you grow stuff there, then plan on using lots of windows, or a low-pressure transparent bubble that is inflated, and bermed with martian soil. I'm thinking you'd have one of these little power loader things that you can get at taylor rental, although quite beefed up so you could use it at really cold temps, but it would be a front-end loader, without a cab, you just walk behind it and use handles. You'd excavate a four foot deep trench, a little longer than your hab and "greenhouse" combined, and then pile the hundred or so cubic yards of martian regolith back on top. The hab and greenhouse would heat it enough to melt and resolidify the material, and provide quite a considerable amount of structural rigidity, so the only supported portion of the roof would be an eight or ten foot wide swath that wasn't covered in soil. Lights could supplement the growing cycle, but so could a pair of reflectors, one on either side of the open swath, that could fold up near sunrise and sunset to reflect light into the greenhouse. This would have two sacrificial layers on top, maybe polyethelene, so during dust storms it could get shredded and not lose pressure. The plants inside could sustain the life support system with additonal oxygen, although potentially not enough to breathe for more than a few hours, but it would lighten the load, as long as the door was open.
      I think i'm wandering a bit... the windmill would just be used when you needed something other than ambient light for walking around (like in high winds/dust storm) and maybe at night if there are winds. Solar panels could be used otherwise, but I can't imagine that you'd be doing things like washing clothes, cooking, and welding on a rover at the same time. You could schedule things like that so that the computers had enough power, and the mass spectrometers, centrifuges, etc. could run. I would also assume that you could have a max. current draw for the computer and science instruments, so that you couldn't turn something new on until something else got turned off, if you were over the limit. A nuclear reactor may not be necesary, as long as you can keep the solar panels clean, and as long as there's a smooth surface on top of them, the wind should blow dust off as effectively as it blows it on. So you'd need a small solar farm, and about ten hydrogen filled windmill balloon devices, and you could probbably have more solar panels (kilowatts) than you could have reactor(s) for the weight. I imagine a three ton reactor wouldn't output what three tons of thin solar panels could, if you minimized structure by simply berming soil up at an angle and laying them down with a simple carbon fiber/lexan housing and a 3 sun power reflector.
Let me know if I'm off base, but I just remember seeing an inflatable aircraft a while back, and if you can build an inflatable wing, you should be able to put it on a hub and make it go in a circle in the wind. Later all,
Rion

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#48 2006-01-18 10:00:40

EuroLauncher
Member
From: Europe
Registered: 2005-10-19
Posts: 299

Re: Power generation on Mars

Specific Nuclear Reactors And Associated Plants
http://www.energystorm.us/Small_Fission … 37495.html

Photovoltaic & Space Environments - Solar idea
http://powerweb.grc.nasa.gov/pvsee/publ … power.html

Student research may help astronauts burn fuel on Mars
http://www.umich.edu/~urecord/0304/Apr19_04/21.shtml

Tiny pellets of fuel may be safer for hazardous places on earth and burn more efficiently in weightless space and low-gravity environments
http://viterbi.usc.edu/news/news/2004/2 … 4_fuel.htm

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#49 2006-04-02 18:45:39

MarsDog
Member
From: vancouver canada
Registered: 2004-03-24
Posts: 852

Re: Power generation on Mars

Solar cell and battery manufacturing robots first.
Then send a few nuclear power plants later.

But in a tight race for nation and glory,
who knows how thin the shoestring budget will get.

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