Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Space-Based Solar Power?

Cosmic Log has the details.

4 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."