Skip to main content

Space-Based Solar Power?

Cosmic Log has the details.

Comments

GRLCowan said…
Solar Power Satellites (SPS) are very like nuclear power plants; in theory the only significant difference is that their rejection, as heat, of the fraction of the sunlight they can't convert occurs far from the Earth, so that hardly any of that heat warms the Earth. A while back I speculated that there are worlds on the sky where SPS got its foot in the door first.

In Reinventing the Solar Power Satellite Geoffrey Landis explores how space-based solar power could be switched on demand from one city to a higher-bidding one thousands of km away. The beams have to fly six to seven Earth radii anyway.

This long flight also makes it impossible to focus them very tightly. The antenna farms have to be big. Aggressive sharers of ignorance are always talking about weaponizability and cooked geese. It's a waste of time to try to correct them, but good to know that these issues were dealt with long ago. No geese will be cooked by SPS, except maybe in kitchen ovens powered by it.

--- G.R.L. Cowan, boron car fan
Internal combustion without exhaust gas
Doug said…
Completely unrealistic for the rest of the century. They'd have to be huge, and they'd cost too much to haul up into orbit. O'Neill proposed mining the moon for raw materials to construct them because of the lower gravity well - obviously that's a long way off. There is also the potential problem with pushing that much EM radiation through the atmosphere to ground-based collectors. What effect are the inevitable (and huge) transmission losses going to have on the atmosphere, birds, etc? Could such powerful beams be used as weapons? (You betcha!)

Nuclear, solar, hydro, and wind can power our civilization for centuries at far lower cost.
robert merkel said…
Neat idea, won't work without orders of magnitude reduction in launch costs.

SpaceX might ultimately reduce launch costs by an order of magnitude, but to do better something radically new will probably be needed.

There are some vaguely feasible ideas to do so, but none of them have been demonstrated, and would take a lot of time and money to bring to fruition.

But until that occurs, space solar power is a very expensive pipedream.
Kirk Sorensen said…
For those that take the time to investigate the numerous and deep technical challenges to economic space solar power, I don't think there will be much doubt that advanced nuclear technologies are a much better investment for our energy future.

But, like many other things, it takes time and effort to discover this. At first glance, huge space-based arrays collecting unlimited solar energy seem much more attractive than "dirty old fission."

Popular posts from this blog

Knowing What You’ve Got Before It’s Gone in Nuclear Energy

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

Nuclear energy is by far the largest source of carbon prevention in the United States, but this is a rough time to be in the business of selling electricity due to cheap natural gas and a flood of subsidized renewable energy. Some nuclear plants have closed prematurely, and others likely will follow.
In recent weeks, Exelon and the Omaha Public Power District said that they might close the Clinton, Quad Cities and Fort Calhoun nuclear reactors. As Joni Mitchell’s famous song says, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
More than 100 energy and policy experts will gather in a U.S. Senate meeting room on May 19 to talk about how to improve the viability of existing nuclear plants. The event will be webcast, and a link will be available here.
Unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants get no specia…

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…