Solar Dreams: a history of solar energy (1878 - 2025)

So Texas and California might draw even more of the US population to these two states. With steel so cheap, wouldn't rail laying be a much more popular option?
 
Yeah but the quote "solar crescent " gets a LOT of sun trust me
Oh I know, but why depend on just one area? Solar power should be very widespread across the US I'd have thought - even parts of snowy Canada should be generating power.

As for the Solar Crescent, I can see massive amounts of industry around there- wonder what effect that will have on the local politics?

Would Las Vegas form as it did in the 30's if solar has changed the state?
Is wonder how extensive the transmission network is by 1912?
Can you make Solar arrays earthquake proof? I'd imagine a lot fo realigning to be done after a shake.
How does Solar effect Mexico? If regular, stable power can be produced it becomes another political weapon.
 
So Texas and California might draw even more of the US population to these two states. With steel so cheap, wouldn't rail laying be a much more popular option?
I could see a very extensive rail network to support all the industry the area would pull in, and need to export out.

Texas and Califorian ports could be even bigger than OTL.
 
“the United States Solar Crescent between California and Texas” - I imagine that’s where the majority of produced in bulk for industry but solar should be viable for power all across the USA?

I could see electric cars, trams and trains existing or staying around forever ITTL.

Annual and monthly solar irradiance map in the US

There's a catch in the United States that can affect the development of Solar Energy and perhaps it's economy: the US is very seasonal, and during winter the amount of solar energy is rather low (4kwh/m2/day or lower) in almost the entire country, and is this solar minimum which will dictate the shape of the dedicated solar industry in the United States.

Even as close to the Equator as Louisiana, the irradiance drops below 4 kwh/m2/day

The only area which could see consistent solar-powered industries like those in Atacama (which, in contrast, even in winter produces around 6.5~7 kwh/m2/day) are in a stretch along the border of Mexico, going from the Gulf of California to El paso, as the machines could extract at least 5.5kwh/m2/day at worst times.

This is of course the figure for industrial purposes. For domestic production, solar energy will remain a good way of lowering the bills.

I can just see the Solar Barons fighting to prevent the Texan Oil being extracted as a mirror to our timeline.
I don't think they'll be as successful, if mainly because petroleum's other properties outside of fuel.

The interaction between a consolidated and widespread solar industry, which in some parameters outclasses fossil fuels (it wouldn't be profitable to make liquid air with IC engines, the gas would be better used elsewhere, and once a solar array is installed, it doesn't need more logistical support to work beside some water to clean the mirrors) and the oil and coal industries is something that will need a lot of focus and research, and will be explored more in the first decades of the 20th century.

So Texas and California might draw even more of the US population to these two states. With steel so cheap, wouldn't rail laying be a much more popular option?

I haven't considered the prices of steel yet. Perhaps they will go down (I have only looked into copper smelting at this point, and steel might be different as it needs carbon to be made, so you might as well use coal) due to overall cheaper energy prices, but the main change ITTL is that metallurgy has more options and earlier.

Creating high temperatures isn't dependent on oxygen anymore, so you could create an airtight chamber with a window to let light pass through and fill it with nitrogen.

Boiling some metals is entirely possible, and freezing them down to around 73 K can be done routinely.

However, metallurgy isn't a topic I know much about, so I can't say how much it'd affect railway construction.

Oh I know, but why depend on just one area? Solar power should be very widespread across the US I'd have thought - even parts of snowy Canada should be generating power.

As for the Solar Crescent, I can see massive amounts of industry around there- wonder what effect that will have on the local politics?

Would Las Vegas form as it did in the 30's if solar has changed the state?
Is wonder how extensive the transmission network is by 1912?
Can you make Solar arrays earthquake proof? I'd imagine a lot fo realigning to be done after a shake.
How does Solar effect Mexico? If regular, stable power can be produced it becomes another political weapon.

It's not so much the US depends on that area to produce solar energy, but that Solar-thermal industries will seek the most consistent zones to develop their industries.

Solar power plants and solar powered devices would still be useful all the way to Canada (just less efficient), but it wouldn't be viable to establish thermal-based industries in areas where little irradiance hits the ground during the winters.

As for the local and international politics, one interesting thing to note is that the Solar Crescent in the US is the tail of Mexico's absolutely massive Solar potential that goes as far south as Zacatecas. Baja California in particular would be Mexico's Atacama Desert in terms of economic importance.

For Las Vegas in particular, I think that the tax incentives that resulted in the development of the Gambling industry might not exist. There are lots of economic incentives ITTL, so Nevada can generate revenue by taxing it.

Regarding the formation of a national grid, it will take some time to properly consider. There are pressures going both ways: power can be generated locally i na reliable way, but there are places where power can be generated optimally.

I begin to see what the "hygroscopic crisis" may be about.
💀
 
Oh I know, but why depend on just one area? Solar power should be very widespread across the US I'd have thought - even parts of snowy Canada should be generating power.
So, while others note that the are seasonal issues, going north, one thing that is easy to miss is the rainfall patterns. Once you get to points north of the Gulf of Mexico (IE, into Texas), moisture from the Gulf moves north-northwest and causes cloud formation (and storms, resulting in Tornado Alley). It's this moisture and cloud formation that reduce the effectiveness of solar power generation.
 
As for the local and international politics, one interesting thing to note is that the Solar Crescent in the US is the tail of Mexico's absolutely massive Solar potential that goes as far south as Zacatecas. Baja California in particular would be Mexico's Atacama Desert in terms of economic importance.
So if there's an occupation of Veracruz America may seek to pluck off even more of Mexican land. That's decades away and Mexico should be aware of the new gold they've got, inviting Franco-Chilena to develop should be a simple matter.
 
Jesus fuck. The amount of Solar-Cryo Demoisturizers Humanity builds will change the climate, doesn't it?
I mean… would that even be feasible? I’m not totally aware of the science I will admit, but would that many machines really suck that much moisture out?
 
This world have its own very different climate crisis compared to our own is going to be very interesting. And I wonder how the future generations of this timeline will try reversing the damage or adapting to it.
 
View attachment 878468

1905 ad for Gillette's "Cryo" Razor. The increased durability of this blade, as a result of cryonically-treated room-temperature Austenite steels, briefly granted the American Safety Razor Company a near-monopolistic status that ultimately led to Congressional hearings in 1911 .
To be honest, considering the rather great advantage Gillette has on other safety razor, I would not be surprised if the price of the other razor on the advert had to be lowered to a dollar by the end of the year
Stirling-Solar technologies developed in Germany and Chile during the last decade of the 19th Century drastically decreased the price of ultra-low temperature liquified gasses. In addition to making cryogenic treatments affordable at industrial scales, air liquefaction also represented the first successful example of widespread storage and distribution of Solar energy. The liquid nitrogen was produced in the United States Solar Crescent between California and Texas, and then shipped to the American Safety Razor Company in Virginia.
So Texas and California might draw even more of the US population to these two states. With steel so cheap, wouldn't rail laying be a much more popular option?
Well,...I personally do not think it would be that much more popular for Americans(and I certainly skeptical of the Southwest having a railway network as dense as the Eastern United States), although perhaps with the help of electrification, there would perhaps be some alignment adjustment to ensure a more speedier and direct connection. Although...
As for the local and international politics, one interesting thing to note is that the Solar Crescent in the US is the tail of Mexico's absolutely massive Solar potential that goes as far south as Zacatecas. Baja California in particular would be Mexico's Atacama Desert in terms of economic importance.
perhaps there would be more rail laying south of the border when compared to the north of the border...

I begin to see what the "hygroscopic crisis" may be about.
Hmm...looking at the humidity map, I am having some conflicting thoughts about this especially considering previous statements and a thing that is for some reason keeping popping off in my mind when the term "Hygroscopic Crisis" is mentioned I think the potentially bad climate part (and I meant a very small part) of the crisis would really only be at most localized to the blue section of the map I have linked, which I think mean the crisis overall is bad , but not "💀, fuck the planet" bad(since the overall global climate really not affected)....

right?
 
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I haven't considered the prices of steel yet. Perhaps they will go down (I have only looked into copper smelting at this point, and steel might be different as it needs carbon to be made, so you might as well use coal) due to overall cheaper energy prices, but the main change ITTL is that metallurgy has more options and earlier.
Broadly, metal ores come in two varieties: Native metals, and oxides/sulfides. The former are just the metal sitting in elemental form in the rocks, the latter are chemically bound and need carbon (or hydrogen) to take away the oxygen/sulfur. Copper can come in either form (I'm assuming the Chilean reserves are native copper) but anything else beyond the precious metals usually is in chemically bound form. This imposes a lot of constraints, unlike copper you probably still need to grind them to get good contact area. (Maybe if you melt the oxide to liquid you can bypass that somehow, but then you need to find a crucible that can HOLD a liquid at that temperature...)

Some metal oxides do thermally decompose into oxygen and the metal on their own at very high temperatures (as in, over 1500 degrees celsius, sometimes well past 2500) so that could be a viable carbon-free route, but since that process is not industrially relevant OTL it is hard to find details outside cases where Wikipedia notes it decomposes instead of boiling. You're gonna have to do some chemistry digging.

Also, when discussing the energy density of liquified air: Does that consider the weight of the high-pressuring piping and such you'd need for the engine and tanks? You'd need to allow the boiling off air to rise well past atmospheric pressure to get useful work out of it. Unlike a steam engine you can't draw a vacuum using a condenser. An advantage of an IC engine is the fuel is a liquid at STP and is only converted to a high-pressure gas in the engine itself though chemical reaction, so much less high pressure piping is needed.
 
I wonder how likely it would be for uranium alloys to become more used in a solar industry as it doesn't require carbon to reach similar properties of steel.

I feel like uranium-silicon would be a cheaper alternative to process than Iron alloys. Both are in the form of oxides usually and uranium ore is considered at the time a useless byproduct of thorium and radium production.
 
Hmm...looking at the humidity map, I am having some conflicting thoughts about this especially considering previous statements and a thing that is for some reason keeping popping off in my mind when the term "Hygroscopic Crisis" is mentioned I think the potentially bad climate part (and I meant a very small part) of the crisis would really only be at most localized to the blue section of the map I have linked, which I think mean the crisis overall is bad , but not "💀, fuck the planet" bad(since the overall global climate really not affected)....

right?
I mean, I guess it depends on the science here and how it would work. We are making a bunch of assumptions here.
 
Would Las Vegas form as it did in the 30's if solar has changed the state?

For Las Vegas in particular, I think that the tax incentives that resulted in the development of the Gambling industry might not exist. There are lots of economic incentives ITTL, so Nevada can generate revenue by taxing it.
Las Vegas in particular is going to be on the map partially because of the San Pedro, Salt Lake Route that is likely to get set up by a certain William A Clark. One of its main industries actually was its ice making machines alongside the totally legal and not yet banned red light district. Given his interest in copper, electric power industries and small smelters, you have someone keenly interested in the potential of this technology.
 
I'm sorry if this has been covered before, but since that seen where Otto freezes the Sicilian mafia, I've been wondering... is there any potential in the idea of liquid air bombs?

Whether artillery shells or bombing runs, I imagine their ability to flash-freeze stuff could prove pretty useful.

I can also think of about 5 different reasons why this might not work, but still, is this a thing that could theoretically be engineered?
 
I'm sorry if this has been covered before, but since that seen where Otto freezes the Sicilian mafia, I've been wondering... is there any potential in the idea of liquid air bombs?

Whether artillery shells or bombing runs, I imagine their ability to flash-freeze stuff could prove pretty useful.

I can also think of about 5 different reasons why this might not work, but still, is this a thing that could theoretically be engineered?
I think it wouldn't be cost-effective. Too heavy, too little esplosion range, no method for a precise delivery until contemporary era... In the Sicilian incident, liquid air worked like a flamethrower, with the impact of a constant flux to freeze people. But a conventional flamethrower, even a very early model, will be more effective than that. Its operator will also require less cumbersome protections.
 
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NotBigBrother

Monthly Donor
I'm sorry if this has been covered before, but since that seen where Otto freezes the Sicilian mafia, I've been wondering... is there any potential in the idea of liquid air bombs?

Whether artillery shells or bombing runs, I imagine their ability to flash-freeze stuff could prove pretty useful.

I can also think of about 5 different reasons why this might not work, but still, is this a thing that could theoretically be engineered?
In his novel "Begum's Fortune" (1879) Jules Verne wrote about an artilery shell filled with solid carbon dioxide. It could to flash-freeze and suffocate.
 
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