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RGtx
2009-09-16 00:52:24
With reports, that we will soon be back to the good ole days of candle light (Your too young to remember the romance of the blackouts in the 70's, Stephen), as coal and nuclear stations reach their end life cycle, can we rely on wind generated power to sustain the energy requirements of the Neutrino Factory?  What about alternatives?  ITER is to far in the future, what about the Polywell?  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polywell), in your opinion, is this feasible?
Stephen Brooks
2009-09-17 22:43:44
The neutrino factory will probably consume around 100MW (rough guess).  We do produce 4-5MW of average beam power (kinetic energy) and the efficiency from the wall plug to the beam is not high.

The answer to the broader question lies as much in economics as science and technology (though I'd say the three are so closely linked here you can hardly treat them separately).  My impression is that there are plenty of ways to produce sufficient power but the greens will have to accept nuclear power stations in their back yard and wind turbines messing up the view (though there's intriguing developments on marine turbines).  Also, though oil is finite, it's not "very" finite, and hydrocarbons in general are even less finite.  Drilling technology has doubled in depth from about 6 to 12km just in the last 10 years, at that rate we'll be getting hydrocarbon deposits out of the mantle soon.  Anyway, so point #1 is - if there are power cuts in the future it'll be because of political and organisational screw ups and nothing really to do with the potential supply.  So, very likely then, but not a scientific problem.

That polywell thing and electrostatic fusion devices like it are intriguing.  It's a bit frustrating that somehow all the "big" funding appears to have gone down the magnetic confinement and now also the laser ignition routes.  The electrostatic devices due to their small scale seem to be developed by small groups and I'm afraid people are dismissing these unnecessarily as "cranks". They might not be.  The additional complication with that polywell thing, judging from the wiki article, is the US Navy restrictions on publication.

It'll certainly be a brighter future if a small fusion device is possible.
Stephen Brooks
2009-09-17 22:49:25
Oh, and I heard the figure of 74TW for total accessible wind energy on Earth, current consumption is about 16TW.  But that will increase to circa 100TW when the developing world come fully online.  And I read the Japanese are investigating solar panels *in space*. Who knows what will win.
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