Author Topic: Power options for a Mars settlement  (Read 136150 times)

Online AC in NC

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #520 on: 04/21/2018 03:40 pm »

At this point long removed from the effort, I won't attest to the whether I did it right and was accurate in calculations.  However, I once was trying to spitball the cost of a massive solar project as a layman's perspective on what we could have alternatively done with certain large government expenses since 2000 in certain troublesome areas.

My recollection is that I validated a variety of numbers from various sources and did a back-of-the-napkin calculation that the entire US annual energy production could be replicated in a square solar-field 30 miles on a side (900 sq mi).  As I recall, this accounted for US Electrity Consumption, then-current Efficiency, reasonable assumption about Solar hours/day and weather, but perhaps not accounting for panel angle-to-the-sun and transmission losses.

The operative point I think being that it easier to do a lot with a little groundspace than you might expect.

As an aside, I think the cost of those 900 sq mi of Solar was significantly higher than the expenditures I was comparing against, but it wasn't ridiculously so and therefore may have been a worthwhile alternative investment particularly given what you get out the back side.
Just to note

That's about 1/2 million acres of land.

What happens when the sun sets?

Cut the starting sunlight by about 1/2 for Mars.

Strange response. :o  Just to reiterate, FWIW it was a back-of-the-napkin analysis for Earth not a PhD Thesis for Mars.
 

OF COURSE, there are additional factors I didn't originally account for and would have to be added for Mars.

Just to note:

Start by cutting the Capacity by 3 Orders of Magnitude IF Mars Electricity Demand is 500 MW-yrs.

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #521 on: 04/22/2018 08:16 pm »
Then no deal. Has to be actual scientific breakeven. Dealing with the Tritium (or helium3) is part of the difficulty, and we’ve been dealing with extrapolations for the last half century. (In fact, breakeven in a narrow sense has been achieved at NIF... the pellet received less energy than it produced via fusion... although that doesn’t include the efficiency of the lasers or all the laser light which missed the pellet.)
That is a bit harsh. D+He3 is less difficult than D+D.  It is not like Tritium, which adds considerable difficulty to the reactor design, because it requires handling the high energy neutrons, plus all the cooling that comes with it.
He3 is just more expensive to buy than Deuterium. As I said, they might do experiments with He3 to destroy the last bits of doubt, but quite frankly, it seems like a waste of money to me to do that until they have completed every last test that they can do with just D+D. That said, their final reactor design would most likely achieve break even with D+D. But that is a bit harder, since from what I understand D+D releases only about 1.5 MeV in charged particles and I do not think that they will bother with a Brayton cycle to convert the rest.

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #522 on: 04/22/2018 08:28 pm »
Early on fission does seem like the best bet but once you get some ISRU infrastructure in place solar starts looking better as you can store energy as methane and lox.

Of course if you can ever get a compact fusion reactor like the one Lockheed wants to build it'll make every other energy source seem quaint.
« Last Edit: 04/22/2018 08:29 pm by Patchouli »

Offline DistantTemple

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #523 on: 04/22/2018 09:10 pm »
Just to repeat the obvious. EM has the biggest battery factory on Earth... and He'll have the first one on Mars! He believes in solar and batteries, and they are available.

EM is massively decreasing the internal (ie for SX itself) cost of launch and transit to Mars.
The only down sides to solar, are the lower sunlight, nights, dust storms and dust. More panels overcome low sunlight, Batteries overcome night, generating electricity from methane and O2 overcome dust storms, and sloped panels with a "jiggler", or "windscreen wiper" overcome dust. Land is free and extensive!
IMO the initial steps will all be based on massive solar, and an overkill of batteries.

I expect Kilopower or similar fission reactors will be NASA's contribution early on, and their route to (limited) participation, without derailing EM's timeline. They will be a great help with ISRU, melting ice, and powering electric mining and construction vehicles, but not critical if not available.
Fusion looks like it could become viable (with HTSC's and +8T field strength), and therefore become an option in at least 10 years.

For mining water, in years to come, mirrors could be used as in the molten salt, solar generation systems, but the heat transfer liquid/system would take the heat directly into the mine. This would be coupled with electricity generation to make use of varied solar input and need. http://www.solarreserve.com/en/technology/molten-salt-energy-storage
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Offline john smith 19

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #524 on: 04/22/2018 09:17 pm »
Strange response. :o  Just to reiterate, FWIW it was a back-of-the-napkin analysis for Earth not a PhD Thesis for Mars.
 

OF COURSE, there are additional factors I didn't originally account for and would have to be added for Mars.

Just to note:

Start by cutting the Capacity by 3 Orders of Magnitude IF Mars Electricity Demand is 500 MW-yrs.
Not really. Just my off the top of my head thoughts. TBH Putting the area in perspective. I was staggered how many acres in a square mile.

From a post of mine on page 2 of this thread
Quote
So you're starting at between 493W and 590W according to Colorado U [on the Mars surface]. in 2016 world record (1st solar CdTe) was 22.1%, giving about 108-130W/m^2

A minimal power level is 500Kw/100 people is 4630 m^2 worst case. So 10x that is 46300 m^2, a square about 216m on a side, per 100 people. At 60Kw/person it's 12x those numbers.

TBF it looks like dust does a lot of scattierng but little absorbing and a figure of 50w/m^2 in a dust storm may be reasonable.

So you'd have to double the minimal size (but at 60Kw/ person that's. 12x bigger)

Assuming 60Kw and 50w/m^ minimum even during a major dust storm that's a square of 22.1% efficient thin film about 334m on a side for each batch of 100 settlers. I do think the "waste" heat from such an array would be quite a useful raw materail for various processes, but it's not clear if that's worth the mass

Those settlers are going to be busy. Even if the film is hung on lightweight poles.

Now I wonder how much Cadmium and Tellurium there is on Mars....
« Last Edit: 04/22/2018 09:18 pm by john smith 19 »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #525 on: 04/22/2018 09:21 pm »
Then no deal. Has to be actual scientific breakeven. Dealing with the Tritium (or helium3) is part of the difficulty, and we’ve been dealing with extrapolations for the last half century. (In fact, breakeven in a narrow sense has been achieved at NIF... the pellet received less energy than it produced via fusion... although that doesn’t include the efficiency of the lasers or all the laser light which missed the pellet.)
That is a bit harsh. D+He3 is less difficult than D+D.  It is not like Tritium, which adds considerable difficulty to the reactor design, because it requires handling the high energy neutrons, plus all the cooling that comes with it.
He3 is just more expensive to buy than Deuterium. As I said, they might do experiments with He3 to destroy the last bits of doubt, but quite frankly, it seems like a waste of money to me to do that until they have completed every last test that they can do with just D+D. That said, their final reactor design would most likely achieve break even with D+D. But that is a bit harder, since from what I understand D+D releases only about 1.5 MeV in charged particles and I do not think that they will bother with a Brayton cycle to convert the rest.
I'm saying they need to demonstrate scientific breakeven without an asterisk. Just doing D+D without scientific breakeven but with hypothetically "good enough" is not the same.

Scientific breakeven doesn't require converting the fusion energy to electricity. It only requires a fusion power greater than the total input power.
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Offline john smith 19

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #526 on: 04/22/2018 09:28 pm »

Baseline calories from potatos can be done for $7/day. Using an utterly non-optimised solar power source. (considering only power)

A 'nice' diet, with 25% of the calories from pork, and a varied vegetable /potato diet costs around $30/day.

This implies that at least the simplest power costs for food and air are not meaningful, being easily payable on a minimum wage job anywhere in 'the west'.
This is OT for this thread but ask yourself seriously.

"Did I just spend half a million dollars to sit in a pressurized trailer and eat potatoes for the rest of my life?"

IOW The dietary options will have expand quite a lot pretty fast. 

And I don't get the prejudice against fish. They were a key part of the Andean Indians ability to grow crops at high altitudes by retaining the heat in the canals between their (relatively) small fields. You can have a wide variety of them and they are relatively easy to carry, as are guinea pigs, rats, rabbits, dogs and cats. All of which have been (are) eaten as food. Of course it might be an idea to bring along some plants to grow the cooking oil of your preference.

NASA estimated with artificial lighting that's 60Kw/person/day. On topic that's a  lot of solar that has to be built and kept on building out if the settlement is continuing to grow.

But that's without ISRU demands, which will be substantial. Inadequate ISRU propellant --> No going home for another 26 months.  :(
« Last Edit: 04/22/2018 09:34 pm by john smith 19 »
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structure booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline DistantTemple

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #527 on: 04/22/2018 09:41 pm »

Baseline calories from potatos can be done for $7/day. Using an utterly non-optimised solar power source. (considering only power)

A 'nice' diet, with 25% of the calories from pork, and a varied vegetable /potato diet costs around $30/day.

This implies that at least the simplest power costs for food and air are not meaningful, being easily payable on a minimum wage job anywhere in 'the west'.

This is OT for this thread but ask yourself seriously.

"Did I just spend half a million dollars to sit in a pressurized trailer and eat potatoes for the rest of my life?"

IOW The dietary options will have expand quite a lot pretty fast. 

And I don't get the prejudice against fish. They were a key part of the Andean Indians ability to grow crops at high altitudes by retaining the heat in the canals between their (relatively) small fields. You can have a wide variety of them and they are relatively easy to carry, as are guinea pigs, rats, rabbits, dogs and cats. All of which have been (are) eaten as food. 

NASA estimated with artificial lighting that's 60Kw/person/day. On topic that's a  lot of solar that has to be built and kept on building out if the settlement is continuing to grow.

But that's without ISRU demands, which will be substantial. Inadequate ISRU propellant --> No going home for another 26 months.  :(
Continued OT...
IMO the farming will be for nutritious flavourful, and interesting additions to the diet... (tomatoes, rocket, basil, herbs) not potatoes. Basic calories will come from Earth for quite a few synods, as space meals, and dried foods like rice, beans, rasins, etc. So we don't have to calculate the Kw to provide 2000 calories per day! If power issues damage food production, the fallback will be rice, tubes of protein, and vitamin tablets! But it will not threaten the settlement.
Edit: a comma ","
« Last Edit: 04/22/2018 09:50 pm by DistantTemple »
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Offline docmordrid

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #528 on: 04/22/2018 09:48 pm »

Mars agriculture thread...

WRT fish on Mars: tilapia
« Last Edit: 04/22/2018 09:53 pm by docmordrid »
DM

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #529 on: 04/22/2018 11:34 pm »
I'm saying they need to demonstrate scientific breakeven without an asterisk. Just doing D+D without scientific breakeven but with hypothetically "good enough" is not the same.

Scientific breakeven doesn't require converting the fusion energy to electricity. It only requires a fusion power greater than the total input power.
Meh, "scientific break even" sometimes also means "extrapolated break even". It is quite commonly done that way because of the difficulty of running experiments on target fuels. This is particularly true for D+T, where the Tritium not only costs a lot of money, but also causes severe engineering challenges that may not be in the (financial) scope of the experiment. Now it can be argued that for D+T, this is cheating because D+T is so much harder to handle from an engineering POV than D+D and a "real" reactor would have to be able to handle that. For D+He3, the opposite is true. The cross section for D+He3 is almost the same as D+D and the expected neutron wall loading from a D+He3 reactor is significantly lower than for D+D. So any reactor that can do D+D can also do D+He3. The potential issue that I see is that doing thousands of shots on D+He3 may be too expensive. But then He3 is not THAT expensive, so maybe they will use it anyway. Either way, I will hold the bet, even if you do not accept "extrapolated break even".

Online speedevil

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #530 on: 04/23/2018 06:12 am »

Baseline calories from potatos can be done for $7/day. Using an utterly non-optimised solar power source. (considering only power)

A 'nice' diet, with 25% of the calories from pork, and a varied vegetable /potato diet costs around $30/day.

This implies that at least the simplest power costs for food and air are not meaningful, being easily payable on a minimum wage job anywhere in 'the west'.
This is OT for this thread but ask yourself seriously.

"Did I just spend half a million dollars to sit in a pressurized trailer and eat potatoes for the rest of my life?"

IOW The dietary options will have expand quite a lot pretty fast. 

The potato figure is mostly useful for a power baseline - setting what amount of electricity is the hard minimum (ish) for required power for food. (3kW)
The 60kW figure mentioned was for a greenhouse using relatively inefficient lighting, in poorly controlled conditions, and counting air conditioning too, as it was in a hot climate.
It is not a useful figure if your cooling is circulation to the outside.

Doubling the $7/day figure doable (with off-the-shelf solar) gets you a varied diet, with assorted veg, and a little meat on sunday. This may not be what the $5M ticket-holders want to eat, but it does equal a reasonable diet for employees.

Other power options - great. But if your power source does not cost under $60/W, landed on Mars, unoptimised solar beats it.

I note that the Hinkley Point power station in the UK is on track to cost $6/W, for a 3.5GW plant - obviously mass unconstrained.

Offline JamesH65

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #531 on: 04/23/2018 12:09 pm »
Anyone done the numbers?

Assume a 1MW fusion reactor weight in at 200 tonnes (I have no idea), takes two BFS trips. Once down takes a couple of months to install and get going.

How many square KM's of solar plus battery backup is required to do 1MW? Google figures indicate about 1hectare (2.5 acres of panels, no gaps) How many BFS trips does it take, assuming you also need to carry the mounting frames and the batteries for overnight storage. And also take in to account packing density on the BFS.

But, more importantly, HOW LONG does it take to install? Solar farms take months to install on Earth.....

Online speedevil

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #532 on: 04/23/2018 12:22 pm »
Anyone done the numbers?

Assume a 1MW fusion reactor weight in at 200 tonnes (I have no idea), takes two BFS trips. Once down takes a couple of months to install and get going.

How many square KM's of solar plus battery backup is required to do 1MW?

In this thread I come to the conclusion that 500kW takes 150 tons, without anything special done, for actually off the shelf commercial panels. Two trips gets you 1MW, in a square 200m on a side or so.
Including batteries, for 1MW average.

This is in the range of ten person-days work, if it takes a minute to pick a panel and stand off a cart, place it on the surface, and then move onto the next one, doing a panel a minute.
Considerably faster deployment could be imagined with a more sane solution.


Offline DistantTemple

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #533 on: 04/23/2018 12:28 pm »
Anyone done the numbers?

Assume a 1MW fusion reactor weight in at 200 tonnes (I have no idea), takes two BFS trips. Once down takes a couple of months to install and get going.

How many square KM's of solar plus battery backup is required to do 1MW? Google figures indicate about 1hectare (2.5 acres of panels, no gaps) How many BFS trips does it take, assuming you also need to carry the mounting frames and the batteries for overnight storage. And also take in to account packing density on the BFS.

But, more importantly, HOW LONG does it take to install? Solar farms take months to install on Earth.....
It will not all be installed in one go. It will develop organically (ha ha) as the settlement grows. By the time fusion is available they will be a vast acreage of solar, and there will be manpower, large earth movers, cranes, loaders etc controlled remotely, autonomously and some with a human driver, so large expansions will not be too challenging.
When eventually available, sure fusion will be a great addition. However on earth that would require a lot of "civil engineering" to prepare: foundations, transmission lines, buildings etc. This is not a little kilopower reactor on a sled!

Apologises for not contributing numbers.... I may have to eventually. The first is fusion on Mars.... light, small, efficient, transportable (in kit form) and erect-able on Mars. Starting point today: The physics at last looks technically just about solved, but a working fusion reactor that provides a net output, and is stable for 10s of seconds has not been achieved. (Experimental) designs for expected success will becoming on line in the coming years.
Ball park guess for fusion on Mars, if EM has some input NET 14 years.
Edit spelling and added a bit.
« Last Edit: 04/23/2018 12:38 pm by DistantTemple »
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Offline DistantTemple

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #534 on: 04/23/2018 12:57 pm »
Quote from: speedevil
This is in the range of ten person-days work, if it takes a minute to pick a panel and stand off a cart, place it on the surface, and then move onto the next one, doing a panel a minute.

That's a seriously evil speed speedevil! Will you be there with a whip and stopwatch. Do you really think 5 ppl in suits, could get that installed and working in two days work!

Automated deployment, or unrolling long sections by machine may seem faster, but if you include site prep, unloading transport to exact location and grid connections etc there's a lot more to it.

But for manual/robotic piece by piece installation there's no way it will be that fast. First there's site prep, unless you are literally on a really flat gravelly surface. (both easy to drive stakes, and will not be moved in storms.)
Placing stakes and frames... 1. set up vehicle, 2. drive. pick  items, 3. place, 4. secure then come back with another setup to place the panels. Then suited humans to plug in connecting cables.  And the working day will be harder because of suits, harder to move, harder to grasp through thick gloves.... although gravity will make lifting easier. Battery  boxes need some kind of foundation, even if its plastic crates full of gravel! Some cables will have to be buried/covered to allow vehicles to cross....

sure the first ones will probably be just dropped in line, but that's like camping, not even a medium term solution.
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Online speedevil

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #535 on: 04/23/2018 02:23 pm »
sure the first ones will probably be just dropped in line, but that's like camping, not even a medium term solution.
For the first ones, all you need is a short term solution.
However.
The martian wind tops out at 60mph and is about 1% as dense as earth.
This means that you do not need particularly secure mountings, even to cope with storm conditions. 60mph and 1% air pressure is very close to 6MPH winds on earth.
There are no wild animals, and other than meteorites, all that is needed to protect cabling is a fence to stop people wandering into it when drunk.

As an obvious point, the fact that rovers work at all on Mars pretty much means you can drag a cart with 50kg of solar panels.

Think less of rigid arrays of panels bolted to the ground with lots of labour, and more of setting up a very long row of folding card tables, with a string between each.

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #536 on: 04/24/2018 12:43 am »
Anyone done the numbers?

Assume a 1MW fusion reactor weight in at 200 tonnes (I have no idea), takes two BFS trips. Once down takes a couple of months to install and get going.

It depends on the reactor design. Some designs like PPPLs FRC will be 5 meters long and 1.5 meters diameter. The PSS NIAC study for the Pluto orbiter assumes 1 ton for a 5 MW reactor but they still have a way to go until they are ready.
If you look at the SFS Z-Pinch or the DPF, you have about 2 by two by two meters for the core and shielding/FLiBe tank and conversion system. They are between 25 MWe (DPF) and 100 MWe (Z-Pinch).
They still need the pulsed power system and the Z-Pinch needs a Brayeton cycle.
Now going back to my personal safe bet, Helion. Their reactor is roughly the size of a standard shipping container, maybe slightly bigger if you add the power conversion system and the pulsed power system.
I would estimate about 100 tons for a reactor that produces 25 MWe.
« Last Edit: 04/24/2018 03:14 pm by Elmar Moelzer »

Offline CuddlyRocket

Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #537 on: 04/24/2018 04:54 am »
"Did I just spend half a million dollars to sit in a pressurized trailer and eat potatoes for the rest of my life?"

Hah! We have problems stopping people eating potatoes; especially in the form of crisps/chips and chips/fries! People like potatoes and plenty have some most every day. But, I assume you meant a diet solely of potatoes?

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #538 on: 04/24/2018 02:42 pm »
Hah! We have problems stopping people eating potatoes; especially in the form of crisps/chips and chips/fries! People like potatoes and plenty have some most every day. But, I assume you meant a diet solely of potatoes?
Excellent point.  :)

Consider my objections overcome.  I even see a whole new approach to funding.

"Pringles. Proud sponsors of the Mars Settlement Programme."  :)
"To share, and enjoy." :)
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Offline redskyforge

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Re: Power options for a Mars settlement
« Reply #539 on: 04/24/2018 04:01 pm »
For the last few weeks I've been working on a project to simulate the electrical supply and demand for a Martian colony. I'd really appreciate any feedback people have. The simulator can be found here:

https://davedx.github.io/mars-power/

The source code is on Github.

The motivation behind this was to see what impact dust storms have on PV generation and how PV compares to nuclear (the model uses Kilopower modules here), and what kind of battery strategies could be used to try and ensure generation supply meets demand as often as possible even if a dust storm occurs.

Let me know what you think :)