29 August 2010

How Far We've Come! (Space-Based Solar Power)

Check out this presentation from Shreyankur Tripathi of Amity University, Uttar Pradesh, India, "The objective of the paper is to understand the Space based Solar Power along with its advantages, disadvantages, design and other important aspects and then finally discussing about its feasibility."

When I started looking at Space Solar Power close to 7 years ago, you could only find a very few links on the Internet...perhaps 1 on NASA, and 2 on Space.com, one on SFF, and Permanent.com.  How things have changed.  I was doing some surfing for images, and look at these beautiful NEW images and web articles:

SolarEn to capture the Sun raw in outer space
Posted by: Shaweta Chauhan | May 4 2009

Here is yet another move to meet the global energy needs. The solar power generation is not a new concept, however, placing solar arrays in space to capture the maximum energy of the Sun can be a step further. Californian utility PG & E and SolarEn corp. have joined hands to fix solar panel arrays in space. The concept is estimated to generate 200MW of power by 2016. The plant costing an estimated $2 billion will provide sufficient energy to light up 250,000 homes.
Converting solar energy in space to electricity
SolarEn proposes to launch satellite, draped with solar panels, in the Earths’ orbit 22,000 miles above the Equator. These satellites will collect and convert solar energy into radio frequencies. The RF is transferred to its ground station in California, which then converts it into electricity and transmitted through power grids to the PG&E delivery point.

Impact on Environment
The Space-based solar power plant has minimal impact on the environment. By placing the satellite into their proper orbit, natural fuels like H2, O2, etc will be made use of. When in proper operations, this power plant will have zero carbon emissions thus making the environment free from mercury and sulfur footprints. The SSP Ground Receiver Station, which converts RF energy into electricity, does not require water for thermal cooling and power generation.
The SSP plant faces technological and economic challenges before it becomes a reality.
• Getting a supersized solar array into the space is the major concern of SolarEn.
• High development cost is a major drawback of the project.
Failed projects of Space based solar power
• In August 2008, NASA launched the Nano-Sail D mission into the space, which was designed to test the feasibility of solar sails. The mission failed a few minutes after its launch.
• On 21st June 2005, the engine of Volna booster rocket (a joint Russian - U.S. project), failed minutes after its takeoff.
• In 1999, Russia launched a project similar to Volna booster from its Mir space with a sun-reflecting device. Due to some technical failure, the system burned in the atmosphere.
Read more: http://www.greendiary.com/entry/solaren-to-capture-the-sun-raw-in-outer-space/#ixzz0y218UGRx 

Plan To Transform The Moon Into a Solar Plant is Sheer LUNAcy

by Ariel Schwartz, 06/01/10
filed under: Renewable Energy, Solar Power

We’ve heard about schemes to gather solar power directly from space before, but designers at Japan’s Shimizu Corporation have taken the idea to a new level with the Luna Ring, a concept solar power plant on the moon. The plan involves building a 6,800 mile “solar belt” around the moon, beaming electricity to earth with microwaves and lasers, and setting up receiving stations on Earth where the power can then be used.

Shimizu even has a grand plan for bringing the resources for the solar plant to the moon. Humans will barely be involved–all construction will be taken care of by robots with oversight from astronauts. The company explains that, “Water can be produced by reducing lunar soil with hydrogen that is imported from the Earth. Cementing material can also be extracted from lunar resources. These materials will be mixed with lunar soil and gravel to make concrete. Bricks, glass fibers and other structural materials can also be produced by solar-heat treatments.”

Compelling ideas, to be sure, but we’d like to see evidence that any of this is possible. If we can’t get robots to fix an oil spill 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, how can we possibly expect them to build a gigantic solar power plant on the moon? Even if this whole scheme was proven possible, the costs would be astronomical — pun fully intended. Still, we can’t fault Shimizu for being ambitious. And while a 6,800 mile solar belt may be far-fetched, that doesn’t mean a more reasonably-sized solar power plant can’t someday end up on the moon.

+ Shimizu Corporation

Via Pink Tentacle

Read more: The Insane Plan to Transform The Moon Into a Giant Solar Plant | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World 

Mega-engineering: awesome future concepts from Shimizu Corporation
Paul Raven @ 02-06-2010 
Get yourself over to Pink Tentacle right away; they’re hosting a bunch of mega-engineering promo images and design concepts from Japan’s Shimizu Corporation, who plainly aren’t afraid to think in directions with strong science fictional undertones. Directions such as floating lily-pad cities, million-citizen pyramidal cities, space hotels… and turning the moon into a gargantuan solar power station.

This one’s the winner for me, because any image of a planetary satellite re-engineered into a solar power plant that has the words “MASTER PLAN” masked onto it in large letters is, by any sane and reasonable metric, better than pretty much any other image. Of anything.

Bonus! Compare and contrast with these images of Russian space-race installations and rolling stock decaying the middle of nowhere [via Chairman Bruce]. Maybe one day in the deeper future, people will tut and shake their heads at images of Shimizu’s lunar power station, pocked with impact damage and slowly drowning in lunar dus

PowerSat: Space Solar Flies Closer to Earth
By Jennifer Kho Jun. 16, 2009, 5:05pm PDT 1 Comment
Do you like this story?

Solar from space: It may sound like a bad sci-fi movie, but a growing number of companies think it could solve the world’s energy crisis. Among them is Everett, Wash.-based PowerSat Corp., which said today it’s filed a provisional patent for two technologies it claims could help make the transmission of solar power from space more cost-effective. CEO William Maness also told us that the 8-year-old company has received commitments for $3-$5 million in angel funding, which it’s using to develop wireless power demonstrations on Earth, and is currently in negotiations for a first venture round in the single-digit millions.

The PowerSat news comes after Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based Solaren, another space solar company, in April signed a deal to provide power to northern California utility PG&E. And Swiss startup Space Energy recently said it’s working to launch a prototype satellite into space in 2-3 years.

Solar In Space

Space solar promises virtually unlimited power, with no carbon dioxide emissions. Undiminished by atmosphere or cloud cover, the sun’s energy is five times more powerful than can be found on even the brightest desert on the planet, according to PowerSat’s web site. And since the sun shines at full power all the time, solar energy-capturing satellites — called powersats — can receive more than 25 times as much power as a ground-based system of the same size, the company says.

Here’s how space solar would work: Power satellites armed with solar arrays would generate direct-current electricity, then convert that electricity into radio-frequency energy, which they would transmit the same way that radio travels to your car. But instead of using electricity to transmit information, as a radio signal does, these satellites would be sending the electricity itself. The radio frequency would get converted back into DC electricity at the receiver on the ground.

The huge potential has been apparent for decades, but space solar faces plenty of challenges. The biggest challenge so far, says Maness, is that it’s considered a risky investment. Nobody wants to invest billions of dollars to launch unproven technology into space, but it’s hard to prove the technology works without trying it out on location. Those billions of dollars represent another major hurdle. Even SpaceX‘s target price of $500 per pound, with its Falcon 9 spaceship, is about 20 percent too high to make a commercial space-solar project viable, and other launch estimates “aren’t even in the ballpark,” Maness said.

PowerSat’s Innovation

Now, PowerSat has come up with two technologies that it claims could shave off roughly $1 billion in launch and operation costs for a 2.5-megawatt power station. The first of these is called BrightStar. Instead of one large satellite, Brightstar uses a cluster of hundreds of small ones, which work together — similar to cloud computing — to transmit the power as a group.

The second technology, called Solar Power Orbital Transfer or SPOT, uses the same solar array needed for wireless power transmission to power the electronic thrusters that boost the satellites from what’s called “low Earth orbit,” which is 300-1,000 miles up, to “geosynchronous Earth orbit,” which is 22,236 miles up. Other satellites use a chemically fueled “space tug” to get to the geosynchronous level, and eliminating that power source reduces the weight of a satellite by 67 percent, dramatically decreasing launch costs, Maness said.

The company is developing a 10-kilowatt demonstration project with unnamed potential clients. In about three years, PowerSat hopes to launch a low-earth-orbit project, which will cost about $100 million. And within five years, the startup plans to look for a partnership with a utility, a public-private partnership involving the government or an initial public offering to raise the money for a full-sized project.

PowerSat plans to launch a prototype project into geosynchronous orbit in 2015 and to reach full power production between 2019 and 2021. It expects the smallest economically viable project, with a capacity of 2.5 gigawatts, to cost between $4-$5 billion.

Raising that kind of money, even with proof in place, will be a colossal task. And a long path — the company hasn’t even raised its first single-digit million venture round, although it has closed angel funding. It’s clear that while space solar may be flying closer, it still has a long way to go.

How Do You Feel About “Space Based Solar Power”?Filed Under Tech Questions 
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 | Posted by John
That is correct.  Solar Based Solar Power is one thing that might be considered and would change everything!  I see the picture and I think to myself “what if this things is tilted 10 degrees in the wrong direction”?  Is there any possibility of this thing creating a major disaster on Earth?
The article says that “low powered beams are considered safe”, but what happens when you put your cat in the microwave?  (please do not abuse your kitty).  The technology is simple and really, it seems like a great idea, but to only support the electricity for 1,000 homes, just doesn’t seem worth it to me.
There is a receiving grid a mile wide, even that takes up too much room.  I would put the worth of the idea higher if it could power 10,000 homes.  Small cities could take advantage and maybe even help to fund projects like this.  To power only 1,000 homes, the city I live near would have to send up 50 light collectors and have a receiving area even larger to convert the light on Earth.
It is nice to see others “looking outside the box”, at least.  The ideas may seem far fetched, but at least they are in idea form.  I would like to talk to whomever thinks it’s cost effective to send up a solar collector that can only power 1,000 homes.

SSPS (Space Solar Power Satellites) & Ground Collectors

Nasa and a number of other agencies have proposed placing giant satellites in geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) to collect sunlight with solar cells. The energy would be converted to a maser beam which would be beamed to the ground to supply earth's energy needs with free, clean, sustainable energy. The basic concept of the SSPS is to beam microwaves from space. The energy would be collected by vast collectors at the ground at high efficiency (around 90%).

The basic technology is now entirely proven with satellite communication relays. The barriers to its development to high power levels are mainly associated with launch costs, a limitation that may well be overcome with BEP technology. 

Space Solar Power Satellite
Maser powered from space By concentrating on our future domestic energy supply, the proponents of SSPSs have so far failed to stress the very real potential this technology has to supply the energy needed to get the whole system into space both cheaply and efficiently. They also apparently ignore the obvious fact that, assuming BE propulsion is developed first, then the cost of launching these payloads into space could be reduced 1000x.

Enthusiasts propose placing a series of massive SSPS's (each 1km-5km in diameter) in GEO. Each 1km2 of satellite collector would receive 1.36Gigawatts of solar energy and, using solid-state technology, convert a modest percentage (~30%?) of this energy into coherent microwaves (ie a maser) to produce a near-constant 400Mw at the ground.

The higher E/D in space and the high total hours of operation, (24/7 for 99% of the year) would make a space installation 4x-5x more effective than any ground-based solar collector. The energy is also made available when other (solar-based) supplies are off line (ie in winter and at night.

When the world converts to solar, night time energy will be at a premium

Ground Power Stations

Ground stations would go hand-in-hand with the space collectors. An efficient ground reciever would be a light metal grid or netting 5km-6km in diameter. It could be situated almost anywhere on the ground below (or in shallow water) from the equator to the arctic circle. Aerial relays positioned in the upper atmosphere could also feed smaller ground arrays or extend this range, if necessary.

Space-Based Solar Power?
Labels: solar

Excerpt: The Economist (December 4, 2008)

Around the clock, 1.3 gigawatts of energy pour through every square kilometre of space around the earth. This energy could be captured by vast arrays of photovoltaic cells mounted on a satellite in orbit around the planet. These solar cells would be illuminated at all times of day, whatever the weather or the season, overcoming one of the main drawbacks of solar power on the earth’s surface. And with no atmosphere in the way to absorb or scatter the incoming sunlight, solar panels in space would produce over five times as much energy as those on the ground. (Some proposals for SSP involve large arrays of mirrors or lenses to concentrate the light onto a smaller array of panels.)

The logical place to put the satellite would be in a geostationary orbit, 35,800 kilometres above the earth’s equator, so that it completes one circuit of the planet per day, and thus appears (from the ground) to hover in a fixed place in the sky, like the communications satellites used to broadcast television signals. The solar-power satellite would send the collected energy down to earth in the form of a microwave beam, which would be picked up on the ground by a huge array of antennae, spread over several square kilometres in open country. The power density of the beam at the receiver would be little greater than what leaks out from a domestic microwave oven, so there would be no danger of incinerating entire cities. Microwave communications links are already used in the telecoms industry without doing any harm to wildlife.

Posted by Robert Volpe at Saturday, January 31, 2009

Back to Bright idea or sci-fi?
Bright idea or sci-fi?
September 09, 2009

Tyler Hamilton

Researcher Nobuyuki Kaya showed how solar power could be sent back to Earth from space using microwaves.
It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel. Solar power plants orbiting the planet, each the size of 700 Canadian football fields, beaming clean energy down to Earth 24 hours a day so we can run our factories, charge our gadgets and keep our home appliances humming.

But for the scientists and engineers attending the International Symposium on Solar Energy from Space, a three-day conference this week in Toronto, there's nothing fictional about it. In their view, building massive space-based solar power systems represents, over the long term, one of the most effective ways of tackling the double menace of global warming and peak oil.

"Space-based solar power is a tremendously exciting prospect," said Liberal MP Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space, speaking yesterday at the Ontario Science Centre about the potential for Canadian involvement in the project. "This country has all the fundamentals to play a leading role."

The Japanese are already leading the charge. Earlier this month, it was reported that Japan's government, working with a consortium of 16 companies, had committed to a $24 billion project to have a 1,000-megawatt solar station in space within three decades. This would generate enough electricity to power 300,000 homes, though getting the equipment into space would likely require more than 1,000 rocket launches.

Eco website TreeHugger called it Japan's "moon shot." The power station would consist of four square kilometres of solar photovoltaic arrays fixed in orbit about 36,000 kilometres above the planet's surface. Energy collected by the panels would be beamed by microwave to a receiving station back on Earth and converted into electricity before connecting to the land-based power grid.

Scientists say the advantage of putting a solar station in space is that it would face the sun 24 hours a day and would not be limited by cloud cover or air pollution. That would allow it to continuously generate power in the same manner as nuclear and fossil-fuel plants, but without the associated waste and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The idea has been around for 40 years, attracting serious attention from NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense during the 1970s, but funding eventually dried up. It wasn't until the late 1990s that interest in the concept resurfaced, partly as a result of concerns related to global warming and energy security.

Two years ago, the Pentagon's National Security Space Office issued a report that concluded solar-based power "is more technically executable than ever before."

The solar panels are more efficient and less costly to manufacture, technology exists to have robots assemble the station in space, and our understanding of wireless power transmission has improved dramatically.

Former NASA executive John Mankins, now president of the Space Power Association, said he believes space-based solar power could be economically competitive with other options.

Mankins added that he believes a small 10-megawatt demonstration plan could be in orbit within the next 10 years. "It's a reasonable time frame," he said.

At the conference, Nobuyuki Kaya, vice-dean of graduate engineering at Kobe University in Japan, demonstrated how the power could be transmitted wirelessly. Assisted by a team of students, he was able to light up a cluster of red LED lights and power a simple robot by beaming energy about 10 metres across a room.

Kieran Carroll, chief technology officer for Space Canada, which is hosting the conference, said such a system could be safely designed to accept and convert large amounts of energy from space. The trick is to transmit at low intensity by sending it down on a wide beam, about 10 kilometres across.

There would have to be no-fly zones around the area, but it wouldn't fry anyone walking through it.

"The power flux density in the middle of the (receiving) field would be perfectly safe for any life," said Carroll.

"In Canada, on a winter's day, one of the big problems would be that birds would probably hover over the field to get warm."

A reality check, however, came from power developer Wael Almazeedi, who warned of the legal, financial and regulatory challenges the plan would face, as well as the difficulty of "promoting a concept based on science fiction."

Here is a Public Policy Discussion on YouTube regarding Space-Based Solar Power at "SpaceUP DC"


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