Ok, I got a valid question about what you gonna do with all those presumably available K1(10^18W) energy, in terms of production in space, which I have broadened to activity in space.
If you do consider that the improvement of technologies is not required to meaningfully utilize the energy. It is a lot of energy by our current standards.
It has to be understood that I do not state the absence of improvement of technologies, and I do not pretend that my answer is complete, thus You free to add some uses.
I do not consider technologies we might have, because if we do great if we don’t not a problem. So it is worst case scenario.
Those who are not familiar we talk as if Plan0 worked out, see the group post for details.
To some degree, it is continuation of thoughts about the problems and comments I saw
in mars fixation – https://www.facebook.com/groups/isaacarthur/permalink/1738439059792629/
how we will deliver people in orbit problem – https://www.facebook.com/groups/isaacarthur/permalink/1740682036234998/
So there is what I think about it
I agree it is a lot of energy, and meaningful use of it might look like a problem at first glance.
First – it has to be understood that in time of building the system most of the energy is used to build the system and deliver matter to the system from celestial bodies, minus some percentage we might devote for other uses.
And if we are lucky and everything goes as planned and we manage to do that in 20 years, it also has to be noted that you basically have 20 years to think about the problem what you gonna do with it, and organically develop uses of the energy. Energy is the money – and as usual, it is never enough.
When the system of producing that energy is established(if it not a fusion, as we use current technologies, thus it is some sort of solar)
We might have a problem of lifting people in space and create a place for them to live. Again current technologies – thus lifting is by rockets, and if the price is $140’000/ton(spacex projection, Sea Dragon thing) if we consider lifting 200kg per person and convert the price into energy(discussion by itself, but I’ll skip it for now) – we need about 2400 GW of continuous power on earth to lift about 80 million people on earth(about current growth of people on earth per year). It is basically a human and his suit so a poor variant. If we consider lifting some additional mass the human might wish to take, the requirements will be more. If we consider them traveling back and forth – the limits is the sky(capacity of earth ecosystem to keep with those launches)
Energy transfer from space to earth is not the most efficient process if we take today’s technologies. But let’s say we can realistically manage 1% efficiency of the transfer. So we talk about 2.4e11W energy dedicated to the task. A tiny percentage, but still it might save us trillions spend on building things there on earth.
They need space habs to live, kinda not existing tech as for today, top notch space hab we have is ISS, but we have it so )).
But those we really need, we imagine those as relatively massive constructions. Let’s say we need 1000t per person in the average of processed mater for those space habs.
For the same flow of people 80 million per year, and using moon regolith to produce required for space habs construction amount of materials(let’s say 1000t Al+Fe) it is required about 1.7e15W of continuous power with 100% efficiency.(not a big bummer, people claim it is possible to have about 95% efficiency for electrolysis processing of regolith, even if 50 not a big deal)
But building requires not only raw materials they should be processed further to actually create the construction. So it is not a stone number but like rough estimation of magnitude.
Carbon nanotubes producing process are probably a leader of an inefficiency and those we might need a lot, not necessarily required but would be nice to have.
One of the point of having a huge amount of energy – you might allow yourself to have inefficient processes working on a big scale – intensive and extensive development processes. In the case, we might replace a knowledge with a butte force. (lasers for energy transfer, CNT production, isotope separation on large scale, pure materials etc)
Building orbital ring requires a lot of material, and who knows how much energy to process of that material to make actual construction – but something like 30m diameter with an average density of 1000kg requires about 5e17 Wh to produce required materials, without energy required for postprocessing of those materials. It might require more if it contains materials which are not that abundant.
If we need isotope enriched materials – for their nuclear properties (low neutron capture cross-section etc) it requires energy.
We might send those rings to all major celestial bodies in the solar system, to open basic access to their resources, surfaces etc.
Hydrogen, helium, carbon, nitrogen – from gas giants, their moons
Mars access; Venus access and carbon extraction; Mercury access.
If fusion is not available then we step in the need to supply energy to those locations (let’s say by means of kinetic energy projectiles send to those locations via mass-drivers as an example, for gas giants)
This is probably a moment where those 10e18W get a serious bite.
Having millions of people in space, I’m sure they will stick their noses into any place in the solar system. Everywhere energy will be required.
We might wish to have a lot of hydrogen to bind oxygen for more convenient storage of it, which is a byproduct of extraction of construction materials from their oxides. It is an optional thing – but it is a good option. Hydrogen has to be obtained, lifted, delivered. And I mean gas giants and their moons as a source of Hydrogen and other light stuff.
All that does not include science we might wish to conduct, the equipment we might need for that – those fancy interferometer telescopes, observing each star continuously, processing those data, storage of it.
It does not include maintenance – more we have – more energy we need for maintenance of those things- repair, upgrade.
It does not include that production of a single part might require 10-100 times more energy which required to extract material required for that part which can be seen in the example of any smartphone.
And the mother of all consumptions – computing. Projects like Server Sky allow meaningful utilization even all of the sun energy at our current state of development. To improve out technologies – by physical simulation, by brute force(Eddison approach) – to search new materials, new ways to produce materials. To conduct multiple virtual and real experiments, to create a physical model.
It can consume the rest of the energy with ease.
However, we might prepare for future population growth, just by extracting materials from celestial bodies, refine them to store them. Because we might expect population growth and store those materials do not take significant space in space. Having materials for a second hab is a good idea for current hab, or even a better one – have the second hub now, just in case.
Regulating Earth solar inflow might be also considered as part of the energy budget.
Some can consider Server Sky argument as a cheat for me to say we can use the energy in a meaningful way.
I kinda agree, but one of the main goals, besides our presence in space, ability to live there, easy access to space bodies and their resources and doing things we might wish to do, I see the project as the mean to advance our technologies and knowledge. And I keep in mind a technology of a smart matter, which I consider to be realistic(it is far from the gray goo and similar things which I do not like at the current state/quality of the discussions about them). Realistic to the point we could have it in some near future and where carbon nanotubes play the major role, which production is still a tricky part for us. But utilizing the technology we could meaningfully utilize any amount of energy we might get.
But also simulations/computing are important for biology as an example – to find the different configuration of proteins, to understand their interactions, to engineer them with properties we would like them to have, for purposes we would like them to have – this requires a lot of calculations at the current state of things.
All those biology is directly connected to our health, to the biology of our bodies, to cures, etc. And we have millions of things to understand in that regard.
And we have millions of species – macro, micro etc.
We should not underestimate the real demand for those calculations. As an example, those projects run at least for a decade now and they do that nonstop https://boinc.berkeley.edu/projects.php
Dream about life extension or maybe immortality – you will need all that you have to achieve those goals. 😀