Space Solar Power - A Truly Limitless Source
The National Space Society presented an international assessment of space solar power. The report is presented in the context of increasing global power needs: 220 trillion kiloWatt hours per year by 2030, which is double today's power output. It will double again by 2090.
The Academy study found that the SPS concept has significant potential to meeting global
requirements for largely carbon-neutral energy during the coming century. The study found the SPS concept to be technically viable, and that it may well be possible to achieve economic viability.
(Global energy demand 2010-2035 [pdf])
The concept of the “solar power satellite” (SPS) was invented first by Dr. Peter Glaser in the late 1960s. Figure 1-2 depicts the conceptual illustration of an SPS presented in Dr. Glaser’s original patent on the
concept, granted on 25 December 1973.
The SPS concept can be regarded as quite elegant: a large platform, positioned in space in a high Earth orbit continuously collects and converts solar energy into electricity. This power is then used to drive a wireless
power transmission (WPT) system that transmits the solar energy to receivers on Earth. Because of its immunity to nighttime, to weather or to the changing seasons, the SPS concept has the potential to achieve much greater energy-efficiency than ground based solar power systems.
Since its invention, there have been numerous studies and technology projects conducted by various government agencies, companies and universities that have been focused on the goal of the Solar Power Satellite.
(Illustration of the SPS Concept from the 1973 Patent [pdf])
The 250 page study's findings can be summarized as follows:
- Fundamentally new energy technologies clearly appear to be needed during the coming decades under all examined scenarios – both to support continued (and sustainable) global economic growth, and for reasons of environmental/climate concerns. Solar energy from space
appears to be a promising candidate that can contribute to address these challenges.
- Solar Power Satellites appear to be technically feasible as soon as the coming 10-20 years using technologies existing now in the laboratory that could be developed / demonstrated (depending on the systems concept details).
- Economically viable Solar Power Satellites appear achievable during the next 1-3 decades, but more information is needed concerning both the details of potential system costs and the details of markets to be
- An in-depth end-to-end systems analysis of SSP/SPS is
necessary to understand more fully the interactions among various systems / technologies for different concepts and markets; however, no such study has been performed since the conclusion of NASA’s Fresh Look Study in 1997.
- Low-cost Earth-to-orbit transportation is an enabling capability to the economic viability of space solar power for commercial baseload power markets.
- Systems studies are not enough. Technology Flight Experiments (TFEs) to test critical technology elements and Technology Flight Demonstrations (TFD) that validate SPS systems concepts to a high level of
maturity appear to be essential in order to build confidence.
- The SPS concept is sufficiently transformational and entails enough technical uncertainties such that major systems level in-space demonstrations will be necessary to establish technical feasibility, engineering characteristics and economical viability before any organization is likely to proceed with full-scale development.
Although Dr. Peter Glaser is credited with inventing the basic concept, it is nevertheless true that science fiction authors had been popularizing the idea for at least a generation.
In his 1931 story Power Planet, Murray Leinster detailed the idea of a power planet, a very large satellite used to gather solar energy and beam it back to Earth:
The Power Planet, of course, is that vast man-made disk of metal set spinning about the sun to supply the Earth with power. Everybody learns in his grammar-school textbooks of its construction just beyond the Moon and of its maneuvering to its present orbit by a vast expenditure of rocket fuel.
Only forty million miles from the sun's surface, its sunward side is raised nearly to red heat by the blazing radiation. And the shadow side, naturally, is down to the utter cold of space. There is a temperature drop of nearly seven hundred degrees between the two sides, and Williamson cells turn that heat-difference into electric current, with an efficiency of 99 percent. Then the big Dugald tubes - they are twenty feet long on the Power Planet - transform it into the beam which is focused on the Earth and delivers something over a billion horsepower to the various receivers that have been erected.
(Read more about Leinster's Power Planet)
Fans of Golden Age sf also recall with fondness the Near-Space Solar Energy Collectors from Olaf Stapledon's 1937 novel Star Maker and the Solar Energy Beam from Clifford Simak's 1941 story Masquerade.
Space Solar Power - THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF SPACE SOLAR POWER: OPPORTUNITIES, ISSUES AND POTENTIAL PATHWAYS FORWARD via Kurzweil AI.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/28/2011)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...' - Harley S. Aldinger, 1932.
Make Space Tools On The Spot (Like Moties)
'A moment ago it was squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon...' - Niven and Pournelle, 1974.
Bacteria Behave Differently In Space
'The Republic struggled to control its Sours...' - Bruce Sterling, 1985.
SpaceX Spacesuit Design Transmitted By Elon Musk
Welcome, SpaceX, to the club of space suit imaginers and makers.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
3D Printed Artificial Muscles Are Stronger Than Yours
Bots don't need to work out.
Fog Computing (AKA Edge Computing) Ad Hoc Networks
'The tiny devices chirped their impulse codes at one another...'
Dubai Scorpion Police Hoverbike Ready To Pull Young Kirk Over
'Is there a problem, officer?'
HEXA Robotic Help For Plants
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out."
Korean Tesla Model S Video 'Excelsior' Is Indeed Our Motto
'Improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the country well...'
DIY Robot Shoots You In The Face
'...there were automatic guns that fired ligamine darts.'
A Bayesian Approach to Safe Imitation Learning For AIs and Robots
Um, how about that pension for the humans who serve as the models for robot behavior?
Qoobo Headless Robotic Therapy Cat Was Anne McCaffrey's Idea
'...used as surrogates in intense dependency cases.'
Autonomous Cars Talk To Each Other At MCity
'My cars talk to one another.'
PUFFER Robots - From Philip K DIck's Second Variety?
'Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of midday.'
Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...'
Targeted Neuroplasticity Training For 'Downloading Skills'
'I know kung-fu.'
U of M's MCity To Feature Asimov's Automatobuses
Should you turn autonomous buses off?
Crazyflie Drone Swarm Technology
'...Programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern.'
Our GodBot, Who Art In Cyberspace
Vaal hungers! We must serve him.
easyJet Short-Haul Electric Jets
Have a little faith, will you? They're working on it.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories