Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Jun 10

Space-based Solar Power

Posted in Energy Inventions | Solar Power

Space Solar Power American scientist Peter Glaser proposed the idea of using space solar power in 1968. The fast depleting conventional energy resources renewed the interest for trapping the solar power via satellites. Right now the usual alternative energy methods have their own shortcomings. Hydro power plants disrupt ecosystems and human habitats. Minimum rain threatens hydro power. Clouds block the sun and sunlight. Wind can choose not to blow at the desirable speed. Alternative energy plants provide intermittent power supply, thus forcing us to store energy. All these factors increase the complexities of using alternative fuels.

If we are able to harness space based solar power, we can overcome these shortcomings. Recently rising fuel prices and at the same time fast depleting conventional energy sources are drawing the interest of NASA and PENTAGON to conduct further studies in the area of space solar power. If a satellite can be placed at an appropriate height it can remain unaffected by the earth’s shadow and the drifting power plant can beam solar energy to ground based receivers whole year.

A 2007 report released by the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office, encouraged the U.S. government to spearhead the development of space power systems states: “A single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on earth today.”

Space Solar Concept

But the trillion-dollar question is how to make this technologically and economically viable? Four factors can make a big difference:

  • The feat can be achieved at considerably low cost.
  • Governments and industries realize that the cost and disadvantages of using fossil fuels are far greater than the effort and costs involved in generating solar power from space.
  • The cost of conventional energy increases to a great extent.
  • We run out of conventional energy sources.
  • Read: Space-Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security
  • Yunomi

    While there may be some promise for this technology in space-to-space applications in the next 100 to 50 years, the technical aspects are daunting. How do you “beam” energy to a targeted receiver on the planet? Since “beaming” energy implies electromagnetic waves, how do you prevent the loss of most of the energy as the wave spreads over the many miles necessary for geosynchronous orbit? The inherent loss in converting energy from one form (electromagnetic to electrical) and back … and back again … just to distribute over extremely inefficient transmission lines. This sounds too much like the “future” of the nuclear power industry: spend trillions of dollars building and maintaining power plants that will produce billions of dollars in electricity. Instead, we should focus on de-centralized power production: efficient homes producing their own energy and storing it when production exceeds usage. Add a VERY local (at the neighborhood level) plant that produces energy from renewables such as algae or recycled waste products. We have many more options available without getting overly fancy with space and remote power supplies.

  • manjit

    More study of this kind of programs need to be conducted and implement it into practical use.

    Don’t just talk only. keep up the good thinking and doing work

  • Chuc

    What happens when this megawatt/gigawatt beam of energy goes off course and flash fries the hapless earthlings?
    I might be for it if it were privately funded but if handled by the pentagon it’ll probably end up being a huge boondoggle and paid for by consumers who see no benefit. It would also likely have some nefarious spin-off military use as a instant response death ray (see movie “Real Genius” with Val Kilmer). What’s wrong with earth based solar? Scientific American article makes a good case for solar panels (earth based)being able to power the entire US grid.

  • Neil

    I believe the main focus of the alternative energy community should be to produce energy a competitive rates to that of fossil fuels. Reliability of the power source is not as much of a concern in my eyes because existing infrastructure can always be used to supplement demand or supply shocks in the near term. Alternative energy solutions will only obtain true credibility when it reaches the state of being profitable for investment despite its environmental impact. I believe the space idea misses the mark. Agree/Disagree?

  • Justice

    Hmm: Asteroids=Upkeep nightmare?

    Don’t get me wrong I think solar is perfect for satellites, just having a mammoth, unprotected array supplying a large portion of a cities energy sounds like a biiig way to get power outages and lots of maintenance missions. Costly. Maybe when we have a planetary asteroid defense system that can work in the scale of inch-sized rocks. As in the year 2500 or something startrekish.

  • Justice

    Oh, wait a sec. This is department of defense saying it could “prevent” wars= Incredibly powerful weapon that will only escalate the tension/stakes/catastrophic nature of war. Oh yes, the answer is always to dominate with a larger weapon, so we can enforce our interests? Single-minded idiots. One planet people.

  • Sean

    The whole “what if it goes off course and hits something” argument is not a problem. It’s called a rectennae. Look up some of MIT’s recent research into Witricity. The EM waves will only be absorbed by a structure with the same frequency that the waves have.
    Tesla invented the tech a century ago, but that was with the EM waves being absorbed by the surroundings instead of the rectennae.

  • Kristo

    Sean, thank you for an interesting read on “witricity”. However, I find you have misunderstood a part of the text(or then I have), because it seems to me that the technology presented does not concer electromagnetic waves, but rather magnetic fields and their resonance with objects. This cannot, I suppose, be used in such large applications as this one is.

    Anyway, thank you for the pointer, I will be looking into that tech later on.

  • kelly arthur

    Asteroids are a hazard? Since when? You mean meteors, I presume? (BTW, we should be harvesting asteroids, not thinking about going back to the Moon; we can get much more for the same delta-V from Apollo/Amor asteroids than Luna will ever give us…)

    “Flash frying”? No hazard. The energy density would be less than sunlight, & the frequency designed to be harmless…

    “One planet”? That is the biggest hazard yet: accepting the “limits to growth” & ending up in a world that looks more like the 12h Century. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in the 12h Century. And the “lower standards of living will save us” argument is far from persuasive, considering Africa has vastly lower standards than we do, & it’s suffering all the problems Malthus predicted: war, plague, & famine, plus genocide. Is this the world you want to live in? Is this the future you want? Malthus was wrong: rising standards of living will cure the problems (&, notice, it’s people in the richest countries who have the time, & means, to worry about it, & fix it; poor ones just try to survive). He, however, was writing as the solution was developing. The green zealots have 200yrs of evidence he was wrong. What’s their excuse?

  • Sean

    They’re microwaves. They’re electromagnetic waves. Magnetism would be an inductive effect on electrons, but that’s something different.

  • Edgar

    Using rockets to launch such vast amount of materials would be far too expensive. A space canon or a space elevator would reduce to launch costs.

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