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This is the second of two questions. Same introduction.

A civilisation on Earth has just begun expanding with a Dyson swarm, which is a Dyson sphere but made with many satellites, to prevent structural problems a sphere would have. This will generate a lot of electricity for the population.

I was reading some articles about solar flares and it got me thinking. How would a Dyson swarm react to coronal mass ejections? Solar flares, Coronal mass ejections and the like can cause havoc for electrical systems. This is because an abundance of energy is pushed onto the electrical circuits thanks to mostly magnetic induction, with a great potential to cause damage. On the other hand, could this spike in energy be caught and subsequently used, assuming any current theory or real technology?

To make sure it is well understood, the Dyson swarm is meant to make a lot of energy as efficiently as possible. That is why the best answer tells the most efficient way of adding a collection system for such surges in energy. That means the satellites are preferably as light as possible, with as little complexity as possible, with as little loss of the normal energy gathering efficiency as possible. 'Protection' can mean that you replace parts or satellites if they get damaged, if you can support this with why it is most efficient.

I'm well aware that this is a depth not suited for my short story, adding problems that aren't there for most readers, but I'm very interested in it anyway. Even if it's only mentioned in passing, I would like it to be correct.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi Triox. Considering that Dyson Swarms are Clarkean Magic, the answer is "without any trouble at all." One can reasonably assume that if humans can build a Swarm, they've mastered the ability to absorb EM radiation across a very wide spectrum and the ability to shift that energy around (which means the rest of the swarm is the safety net). But, to really make my point, asking us to ponder Clarkean Magic with the restriction of "any current theory or real technology" is kinda sensless. You've already introduced the magic. What are you really looking for? $\endgroup$ May 11 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH even with the introduction of "magic" of advanced science there is no reason why we can't have things rooted in science. Otherwise any (Clarkean) magic related question is moot. I'm allowing a lot, as any theory can be used. If I wouldn't, you could write basically anything without restriction. "Because a snail caught a ray of sunlight 100 years ago" would be equally valid as "nanites" or "because I said so". I want something at least rooted in science and not science fiction. I'm asking a real world solution that happens to be on a "Clarkean magic" idea. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    May 11 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ OK, what more do you need than solar panels with a wider EM acceptance band, greater efficiency, and a power substrate designed to accommodate the load? I suppose that's what's confusing me. The basic engineering to deal with the issue is high school electronics. A detailed explanation based on today's tech applied to a dyson swarm is like asking what premise could be used to build a skyscraper if all you had to work with was wood and nails. $\endgroup$ May 11 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH as far as I'm aware Dyson Swarm aren't thar clarkian tech. Using a system of mirrors that send it to collectors something to be converted to energy and Von Neuman probes that mine mercury. It might be crude but it is technically possible. Question is more "what kind of collectors and how do they react to coronal ejections"?. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    May 11 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan Earth today is considered a Level 0 on the Kardeshev Scale. A Dyson Swarm is somewhere between Level 1 and level 2, probably favoring level 2. Just because we can create a crude model that demonstrates the theory doesn't mean the magic isn't needed to build the real thing. $\endgroup$ May 11 at 19:36
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The short answer is any attempt to harvest solar flares instead of merely just trying to survive them would not make much sense at all. Solar flares occur erratically, in non constant locations, and have unpredictable intensities. It would require significant investment to harvest them effectively, and it likely would be more economic to either simply make the dyson swarm more efficient or generate power some other way.

Additionally, given that the average solar flare has a net energy output of $10^{20}joules$, it would be dwarfed by the estimated power of a Dyson swarm power generated the standard way (Sun's power: $3.8*10^{26} Watts$ * $0.25 efficiency$ = about $10^{25} Joules/second$) That is, A 25% efficient Dyson swarm would generate $10^5$ solar flares worth of energy per second. It simply would not make sense to harvest energy this way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Methinks that the energy harvested from solar flares would best be used in countering the energy from solar flares - that is, the solar flares would have a force tending to 'push' the swarm away from the sun, and so an equal force would have to be applied to keep the swarm in position. No net gain in energy. $\endgroup$ May 12 at 14:28

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