03 March 2012

Space Solar Power Article in Strategic Studies Quarterly (SSQ)


Here is just the opening:

Solar Power in Space?
Peter Garretson, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Whoever takes the lead in the development and utilization of clean
and renewable energy and the space and aviation industry will be
the world leader.
—Prof. Wang Xiji, Chinese space program pioneer

Space-based solar power (SBSP) is a concept for a revolutionary energy system. It involves placing into orbit stupendously large orbital power plants—kilometers across—which collect the sun’s raw energy and beam it down to where it is needed on the earth. In theory, SBSP could scale to meet all of humanity’s energy needs, providing virtually unlimited green, renewable power to an energy-hungry world.

Most renewable energy schemes sufer from intermittency and low energy density, requiring vast amounts of land and extensive storage as well as fossil fuel backup systems. Not so with SBSP systems. When placed in orbit where the sun shines constantly, they can deliver stable, uninterrupted, 24-hour, large-scale power to the urban centers where the majority of humanity lives. A network of thousands of solar-power satellites (SPS) could provide all the power required for an Earth-based population as large as 10 billion people, even for a fully developed “irst world” lifestyle but without the environmental downsides of nuclear or coal.

Should space-based solar power have a role in the US grand strategy for space? Should Airmen advocate for a US program in SBSP? Depend­ing on your viewpoint, SBSP is either the most important space project of our generation—critical to securing American long-term interests and requiring the advocacy of Airmen—or a fool’s errand, an impossible dream threatening to divert valuable resources from where they are most needed today

1 comment:

Mac said...

Solar energy has gone from being the great white hope, to an impediment, to a reliable energy supply. Solar farm operators and homeowners with solar panels on their roofs collected more than €8 billion ($10.2 billion) in subsidies in 2011, but the electricity they generated made up only about 3 percent of the total power supply, and that at unpredictable times.

Commercial Solar MA