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How feasible is a geomagnetic power plant?


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I just had a though recently.

Earth's magnetic field may be quiet most of the time but its not static, so I wonder if would be possible to build a gigantic coil and just let it passively generate power geomagnetically.

I have no idea of how many kilometers of cable and tons of metal we would need to power even a single house but taking into account the scales we are dealing with, geomagnetic powe doesn't seem scarse, and humanity has more than proved its capacity to litter the entire globe with ridiculously long cables.

from my limited understanding of electromagnetism, It seems the main limiting factor for how much power we can get is the length of the cable and its thickness, the less resistance per kilometer the better.

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15 minutes ago, jarvisgobrr said:

the main limiting factor for how much power we can get is the length of the cable and its thickness

There are dozens of engineering, social, political, and financial constraints to consider. I'm a fan of solution-focused thinking, but what is the issue? Power infrastructure? Where? These are the critical questions.

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The issue is that most of our power comes from fossil fuel and we need to get it from cleaner alternatives while the sun is just passivelly vomiting ludicrous amounts of power at our faces.

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Sounds like a nice fantasy. But until we find a safe way like a very large flywheel or the mythical flux capacitor from Back To The Future, it is just a fantasy, I am afraid to say imho. 

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Is enery storage the issue?

I think that assumes we care about efficiency. What if we just use the energy to pump a bunch of water uphill into a giant pool and use hydroelectric plants to recover it? I honestly have no idea about how much energy that would waste but I think as long as we have energy to spare, lots of solutions that would seem crazy suddently become viable.

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It's mostly a static field, the fluctuations are very low and slow. Which means the change of magnetic flux is low, because of that, the electromagnetic induction is low and thus the generated power is low.

Even during a severe geomagnetic storm there isn't much to generate from huge structures. The induced power could be enough to cook a transformer or a pipeline, but that's not much in terms of useable energy.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, helios said:

It's mostly a static field, the fluctuations are very low and slow. Which means the change of magnetic flux is low, because of that, the electromagnetic induction is low and thus the generated power is low.

Even if we somehow would try to use the ring current at the poles, we would need massive installations to access the magnetic flux, which up there would not be feasible due to the strong winds at that height and the position keeping systems necessary. The amount of energy we could get that way, would probably amount to the loss for the microwave 'downlink'. So in my opinion, it's a great idea, but physics doesn't want to play ball with us. :(

1 hour ago, helios said:

Even during a severe geomagnetic storm there isn't much to generate from huge structures. The induced power could be enough to cook a transformer or a pipeline, but that's not much in terms of useable energy.

 

 

 

The real problem here, is to somehow get that short energy burst into a conductor. Apart from supra conductors I'm not sure something like that exists (apart from Science Fiction - see StarGate Atlantis). 
But ... maybe see those words as a challenge. Who knows what other people can come up with. Human ingenuity is endless.

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A thing to consider is that geomagnetic induced currents dont travel in the same direction and don't produce a steady and consistent current. This is due to the direction a CME travels and the angle in which it can impact Earths magnitosphere.

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I was thinking even if we dont easily get a very high voltage, we could just add a a huge amount of loops to a coil and it woudnt nescessarily need to be around the poles as long as it intersects a good area of field lines. And if the conductor was thick enough it would be able to sustain a very large current even at low voltage since I dont think any manmade coil will ever have a back EMF big enough to counter earth's field.

Well, a bummer. and here I thought it was even remotely feasible. 

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For the issue of fossil fuel reduction, zero consumption is a complete fantasy, full-stop. Nuclear and solar stand as the most cost-effective and ecologically-friendly solutions to-date, but are plagued with either political red-tape or population density concerns. The power sector, as it is called in the US, is a worthwhile industry to pursue engineering, research, and labor jobs, in any case. Stick with the questions! Ultimately, harnessing geomagnetic energy would be like trying to harness tidal force or angular momentum of celestial bodies.

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Honestly, I dont get what we are waiting for. Its more than proven that fossil fuel is just as hazardous and damaging to the world and is already killing thousands of people. I cant help but fantasise about solutions.

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16 minutes ago, jarvisgobrr said:

Well, a bummer. and here I thought it was even remotely feasible. 

If GIC's were consistent when they occured I think it could be feasible. With how variable they are and how uncommon strong GIC's, I can't fathom a reasonable way to capture them. 

Your idea is much more grounded than mine at least (pun intended). I fantasize about capturing energized ions that travel the Auroral Oval and Equatorial Ring Current. My head is often in the clouds haha. 

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11 hours ago, Parabolic said:

fantasize about capturing energized ions that travel the Auroral Oval and Equatorial Ring Current.

That would be also an interesting aspect, but I think this energy is even more difficult to harvest than the magnetic energy.

On the start page of SWL we can see the hemispheric power, which is exactly that, the energy of the ions and electrons hitting the entire planet. Currently it's 10 GW for each hemisphere. In relation to that, the electricity consumption of Germany is 50 to 100 GW.

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13 minutes ago, Kuhnate said:

Thats interesting and sort of amusing. I know they've used tethers transferring angular momentum and testing satellite drag. I never really occurred to be that this could be used as a "electron net" of sorts. It's cool to see that they haven't given up that idea completely.

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On 5/27/2024 at 8:53 PM, jarvisgobrr said:

I just had a though recently.

Earth's magnetic field may be quiet most of the time but its not static, so I wonder if would be possible to build a gigantic coil and just let it passively generate power geomagnetically.

I have no idea of how many kilometers of cable and tons of metal we would need to power even a single house but taking into account the scales we are dealing with, geomagnetic powe doesn't seem scarse, and humanity has more than proved its capacity to litter the entire globe with ridiculously long cables.

from my limited understanding of electromagnetism, It seems the main limiting factor for how much power we can get is the length of the cable and its thickness, the less resistance per kilometer the better.

That is quite a fun idea; my first thought is however that it would unlikely to be worth the investment due to the relative rarity of geomagnetic disturbances (being intermittent is also inherently a problem for power systems, but improving energy storage capabilities could mitigate that factor).

If you're going down that route I think a better idea might be to focus on atmospheric electricity and utilizing the potential difference between the ionosphere and Earth's surface (imagine a spark gap between the two, a standing lightning bolt, that would definitely be quite impressive). I guess you'd have to be careful not to disturb some vital part of its function before going at it at that scale though, heh. Not sure exactly how fast the Earth-ionosphere capacitor recharges either, but I doubt discharging it completely in one fell swoop is going to be a very fun experience.

18 minutes ago, Kuhnate said:

Heh, I remember reading about that, that's a very cool experiment. Too bad it takes away from the kinetic energy of the craft itself though.

That reminds me of another "genius" idea I saw proposed once, which was to construct an absolutely enormous coil for the entirety of Earth to pass through in its orbit so as to convert the kinetic energy of the orbit to electrical energy by using the geomagnetic field itself to induce a current in the coil. I doubt it's actually possible to do that in any feasible way even if you assume you have the ability to construct and set up the coil, as it would either be so light that it'd fly off in the opposite direction or heavy enough to wreak gravitational havoc. It's an interesting idea though, as there's roughly 2.65 * 10^33 J of kinetic energy in the orbit; we couldn't exactly scale up our energy needs forever that way since we'd end up falling into our local star, but we could literally use our current global energy use of around 600 EJ (exajoules) yearly for a billion years and hardly make a dent in that kinetic energy, it's quite impressive.

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