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The premise for the the world I'm building is that the Superpowers of Earth lost an interplanetary war with the Colonies of Mars. As a result, most of Earth's governments have either collapsed or have been reduced to third world countries. Some communities are reestablishing themselves, one of them is the City State of Philip Island (better name pending), located east of the ruins of Melbourne, Australia.
At the center of the city is a solar thermal tower that collects sunlight from heliostats placed on the rooftops. My question is: what would it be like living underneath that thing?

Notes

  • They have managed to salvage technology from before the war, including sophisticated drones and 3D printers that can build anything from power tools to housing complexes.
  • They have highly organised scavenger teams that bring in materials and replacement parts.
  • In terms of food and water they are mostly self-sufficient, but still rely on trade from other communities.
  • Most of their buildings, including the solar tower, are printed from recycled concrete and recast steel.
  • The solar tower isn't their only source of energy. They also have salvaged wind turbines placed along the coastline, backed up by wave generators and a network of large batteries dotted around the city.
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    $\begingroup$ Well, inhabitants living under the focal point of an array would probably eat more fowl, thanks to the half-cooked birds that would occasionally fall out of the sky. I'm only half kidding. Beyond this, I'm not really sure what you're asking. "What would it be like?" is very vague. $\endgroup$ – type_outcast Aug 16 '16 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ Hot: (nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/project_detail.cfm/projectID=40) $\endgroup$ – nzaman Aug 16 '16 at 11:24
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    $\begingroup$ Nate you ask what it would be like to live under something but then fail to describe the thing you are asking about in any relevant way. Please include the relevant information from the link in your post. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 16 '16 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry the question was very vague (I'll keep that in mind for my next one), but despite that everyone has given me some awesome input, so thank you. $\endgroup$ – D-Nate Aug 17 '16 at 4:11
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It's going to be somewhat like living in any kind of industrial area. There are places that it's very dangerous to go, at the focus, and there will be noises from the machinery working (the heliostats moving and the turbines and generators working). People will come along regularly to mend the heliostats.

Depending on the design of the collector, there may be a very bright spot overhead that you shouldn't look at, but humans have reflexes for doing that anyway. The idea that the sun is visually "in two places", in its movement through the sky and at the top of the tower, will seem weird to newcomers, but I expect people would get used to it quickly. The shade patterns in the streets will also be odd, as the heliostats move, but again, that's something people would get used to.

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Most likely people will not be living under the tower, or even nearby. The brilliant point of light at the focus, the ever shifting heliostat mirrors, the high energy transmission lines and transformers, the turbines, condensers, molten salt tanks, pumps and whatever else is needed to operate the device will all put local inhabitants in danger, and could likely be knocked out of commission by untrained, unwary, careless or even malicious people. You don't have people living inside factories or chemical plants for exactly the same reasons.

People working around the plant will be carefully trained to operate the equipment in a safe and conservative manner (in a post apocalyptic environment, it is much harder to get replacement parts or expert help to fix, refurbish or upgrade things). Many materials might also be unavailable such as the specialized dielectric coatings on the mirrors to ensure high reflectivity, or a source of the purified salt used to moderate fluctuations at the hot point (solar heat melts the salt, and the working fluid takes heat from the salt tank, rather than absorbing solar energy directly. If a cloud passes across the sky, heat output degrades gradually rather than abruptly).

Given the fact this is an island with apparently several electrical generating stations, I would expect this will become a "company town", where the bosses sell electrical energy or finished products made with the electrical energy in return for importing virtually everything else. This is probably not going to be pleasing to the residents, since they will end up paying high prices art the company store, but have few alternative outlets (most of the space outside of the living quarters is devoted to energy production or manufacturing). The bosses will also carefully guard the source of their wealth, so don't expect wandering people heading off for a picnic to be welcomed by the armed guards and patrolling attack dogs when they reach the perimeter fence.

If you want to get a feel for this sort of environment, look up depictions of life in coal mining towns in the pre WWII period. "October Sky" also gives a reasonably good idea of what people are facing when there is only one major employer and limited opportunities to leave.

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