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Directory:Space Based Solar Power

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Image source: Next100.com by PG&E.
Image source: Next100.com by PG&E.

Addressing the concept of situating solar panels in orbit around the earth, to then transmit the power collected to earth. The primary down side is the infusion of added heat from the sun that would otherwise bypass the earth.

Contents

Space-Based Solar Power

Overview

      "Wireless transmission of electricity continues to intrigue scientific investigators. Following the oil crisis of the 1970s, NASA scientists studied the possibility of putting satellites with enormous arrays of solar cells into geosynchronous orbit to transmit microwave energy from the sun to earth. The plan proved feasible, but too costly under prevailing economic conditions. This would change when the price of oil had reached about $70 a barrel. It seems far-fetched, but some day our survival could depend on such technology." -- (Tesla: Master of Lightning; Margaret Cheney & Robert Uth; Barnes & Noble; 1999; pp. 171, 172)
  • Financial and Organizational Analysis for a Space Solar Power System - This ground-breaking paper (225 pages, 3.7 MB PDF) is "the first modern paper to include a stakeholder analysis, an in-depth discussion of international organizational aspects (including intellectual property and separation of manufacture and operator companies)... (NSS.org blog; July 16, 2009)

Developments

  • Featured: Events > 2010 >
    Next Gen Expo -- turning a lemon to lemonade - Though a great idea (new media for rising generation), the execution of this event was juvenile, though not a complete waste of time. Highlights included Howard Bloom, Space Solar, domestic-spy-cam-disabling lasers, and a screening of a film about Wall Street criminality. (PESN; Oct. 22, 2010)
  • Solar > Space-Based > Solar Sails >
    Solar Winds Could Provide 100 Billion Times Earth’s Energy Needs - Researchers from Washington State University have published a paper in the International Journal of Astrobiology stating that energy from solar winds could replace conventional forms of renewable energy produced on Earth such as solar, wind and biofuel power; theorizing that a giant solar sail 5,220 miles (8,400 km) wide, designed to harness solar winds, could generate 1 billion gigawatts. (Inhabitat; Oct. 5, 2010)
  • Japan Wants to Power 300,000 Homes With Wireless Energy From Space - In three decades, the satellite is slated to have a surface area of four square kilometers, and transmit power via microwave to a base station on Earth. A small test model is scheduled for launch in 2015. The $21 billion project just received major backing from Mitsubishi. Question: what happens when a 1-gigawatt microwave beam aimed at a small spot on Earth misses its target? (Popular Science; Sept. 2, 2009)
  • JAXA testing space solar power system - Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to have a Space Solar Power System (SSPS) up and running by 2030. On February 20, JAXA will begin testing a microwave power transmission system designed to beam power from satellites to Earth. (Pink Tentacle; Feb. 8, 2008)
  • Palau and Pentagon Looking to Harness Solar Energy from Space - The U.S. Department of Defense and Palau want to test the feasibility of using satellites to beam down "affordable, clean, safe, reliable, sustainable, and expandable energy for mankind." Palau's uninhabited Helen Island would provide the ideal testing ground for a small demonstration. (TreeHugger; Dec. 27, 2007)
  • NSSO on Space Based Solar Power -After about a year of review, a report has been released providing a broad-brush review of the status of space-based solar power, showing immense potential, but also a number of challenges that appear only surmountable with a strong government commitment to the project. (Slashdot; Oct. 10, 2007)
  • Sunlight into Laser Beams - Japanese scientists have developed a new technology for converting sunlight into laser beams that could form the basis for JAXA's Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) project. The project seeks to put a space-based power system in orbit above the equator — with the goal of harnessing the sun's energy to generate electricity or hydrogen on Earth. (TreeHugger; Sep. 7, 2007)
  • Solar-Powered Laser - Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology are developing powerful laser capable of combusting the magnesium content of seawater. In the process, large amounts of heat and hydrogen are given off. (MIT Technology Review; Sept. 19, 2007)
  • Public Discussion Opened on Space Solar - The U.S. National Security Space Office (NSSO), an office of the Department of Defense, has taken a novel approach to a study they are doing on space based solar power. They've opened a public forum to garner public ideas on the best means to harvest energy in space. (Slashdot; July 25, 2007) (See also Space.com)
  • Space solar power: limitless clean energy - Solar power from both the Moon and from satellites would provide energy for operations in space and could be beamed down to Earth using either lasers or microwaves, with 24 hours production every day of the year. Most of the technologies needed are already being developed by NASA. (The Space Review; May 14, 2007)
  • Solar Power Satellites - Cheap Clean Power Forever - Solar cells in orbit convert light into electricity. This electricity is converted into radio energy and transmitted to a receiving station on earth. The receiver converts the radio energy back to electricity and puts it on the power grid, ready to serve customers.
  • Going Solar in Space - India is building a series of solar power stations that it plans on sending into space with reusable launch vehicles. Although the technology isn't quite there yet, the sun's intensity in space is almost twice that on Earth, and the energy could be continually harnessed 24 hours a day. (TreeHugger; Jul. 6, 2007)

Launch Vehicles

  • JP Aerospace - JP Aerospace is a volunteer-based organization achieving cheap access to space by just doing it. We are an independent space program. Here you'll find photos and videos from over ninty missions and information on our Airship to Orbit program.
  • Techspere - Our mission is to deliver a new platform, based in the stratosphere, which will help provide for our national defense and create a new economy for wireless communications. The AeroSphere is the world's most advanced airship and is ready to meet your application requirements.
  • Space Transportation (pdf) - Is the space transportation industry capable of providing the massive quantities of low-cost space transportation necessary for SSP construction?

Lunar

  • Solar > Space-Based >
    Massive Lunar Solar Power Tower Beams Energy to Earth - This massive astral power tower just won the 2010 Moon Capital International Design Challenge. Designed by Bryna Anderson, a graduate student from Columbia University, the concept is based on American physicist Dr. David Criswell’s proposal for a Lunar Solar Power System. It works by collecting energy on the lunar surface using photovoltaic converters and then transmitting it to Earth via microwave generators. (Inhabitat; Oct. 26, 2010)

Photon Propulsion in Space

  • Solar > Space-Based / Flight > Propulsion >
    First solar powered spacecraft successfully launched - Today, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun (IKAROS) craft. IKAROS is a space yacht that gathers energy for propulsion from sunlight pressure (photons) by means of a square membrane measuring 20 meters (65.6 ft) diagonally. (GizMag; May 21, 2010)

Resources

Other Coverage

  • The SSP Monitor - Clean energy from space! Read about it on The SSP Monitor.
  • The Space Review - Space solar power: why do we need it and what do we need to get it?
  • Solar-Power Satellites - A satellite with solar panels to convert light energy into electricity can be put into orbit. Indeed, most satellites in orbit today are powered by solar panels. But how can we get the energy from the satellite back to earth?
  • Space Island Group - Clean Energy, Cheap Hydrogen, and Weather Control From Space

Comments

See Discussion Page.

Adding to Earth's Heat; Weather Disruption; Microwave Danger

On Nov. 18, 2007, Thomas E. Kasmer, inventor of the Hydristor, infinitely variable hydraulic pump wrote:

I would like to address the idea of orbital solar arrays collecting solar energy and beaming it to Earth via microwave transmission.

I would pity the bird, goose or airplane flying through the beam. 'Poof'.

That said, there are 2 cases of energy collection via the orbital mirrors. If the mirrors capture solar energy that would normally miss the Earth, then the transmission of the energy via microwave to the surface would result in that extra energy [eventually] being dissipated [on Earth] and hence MORE global warming!

If the mirrors intercepted the energy destined to strike the earth, there would be additional weather disruptions due to this very large shadow cast on the Earth. Crops would also be affected by this.

There is the visual pollution in the sky during the day and the blocking of the heavens at night both for the individual and scientific observation of the night sky.

I wonder how the array would fare when hit by meteors like the Persoid meteor showers.

Then there is the solar wind pressure acting on such a large 'sail'.

It wouldn't be long before somebody was selling advertising on the array like that which is done on the Goodyear blimp.

Heat Gain Negligible?

On Nov. 18, 2007, New Energy Congress member, Sterling D. Allan responded to Tom's comment above:

On a continual basis, the sun is striking the earth with the same intensity, whatever surface happens to be exposed. Likewise, on an equally continual basis, a given amount of heat energy is being radiated off the earth into space. It is in equilibrium.

I think you are right in saying that if the amount of surface being struck by the sun is increased, then the steady-state heat will increase. The question is one of extent. I'm guessing that the net gain would be extremely small, and that this effect would be essentially negligible.

Also, regarding the shadow cast by the solar array, my understanding is that the solar gain is continually 24/7, which would require that it not be in an orbit that would pass in front of the Earth, because that would mean it would pass behind the earth, which would rule out the 24/7 claim.

See also

SOLAR GENERAL:

SOLAR MODALITIES:

SOLAR INFRASTRUCTURE

SOLAR APPLICATIONS:

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