The Discovery Channel aired Orbital Power Plant on September 12, 2008. (Unfortuntely, I have been unable to find a link to original video. If you know how this show can be viewed online, please let me know.)
Orbital Power Plant was one installment of the eight part Discovery Project Earth series on ambitious geo-engineering projects aimed at solving climate change and sustainable energy problems. John Mankins, a former 25-year career scientist NASA and CalTech’s JPL, teamed up with Discovery Channel scientists and engineers to demonstrate the following technologies which are fundamental to the ultimate success of Space Based Solar Power.
- Increasing the efficiency of PV cells with Fresnel lenses
- Measurements of solar radiation at high altitude using a weather balloon
- Short range wireless power transmission
- Long range wireless power transmission
The long range wireless power transmission was successfully demonstrated between two Hawaiian islands, a distance of approximately 148 kilometers, simulating passing a power-carrying microwave beam through the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere. While a very small amount of power was transmitted and detected, Mankins stated that only budget and FAA restrictions prevented a higher power demonstration.
You can read a complete account by Jeff Foust of The Space Review, titled A Step Forward for Space Solar Power.
07/08/2008 Update: My comment was indeed published on the Allianz Knowledge website, below the article titled “Solar Energy Profile: Straight from the Source“.
This afternoon, I posted the following comment on the Allianz Knowledge website, in a section on Energy and CO2 at the end of an article titled “Solar Energy Profile: Straight from the Source“. A quote from the main website stated “Allianz Knowledge focuses on Climate Change, Microfinance, and Demographic Change. These topics are vital to our business – and to our world.” I found the website to have a great deal of information regarding the energy situation we face.
I will let you know if I hear back from the website’s editors and if they decide to publish some or all of my comment.
Our Sun is ultimately the source of all forms of energy we consume. Solar power is nearly a direct form, while fossil fuels took as long as 400 million years to collect and convert the Sun’s energy that they store.
I am a self-appointed advocate for the immediate and large scale development of space-based solar power. Large solar panels would be put into orbit, where they would receive intense sunlight 24/7/365. This energy would be beamed to receiving antennas (rectennas) on earth in the form of electromagnetic radiation at frequencies that would not be hampered by clouds or dust in the atmosphere. This energy would be converted to conventional electricity and connected directly to the existing power grid for distribution.
This will be a complex and expensive engineering project with many beneficial offshoots in terrestrial alternative energy and space exploration technologies. I have much more information and many links on a website titled Citizens for Space Based Solar Power (c-sbsp.org).
While this idea has existed since the 1960’s, it is very disappointing that space-based solar power isn’t at least a part of the worldwide conversation on moving our energy outlook towards a sustainable future.
Citizens for Space Based Solar Power
Ad Astra ("to the stars"), the award winning magazine of the National Space Society (NSS), has recently published a special report covering space-based solar power (SBSP). This richly illustrated special report explains the technologies behind SBSP in an easy to understand way. Included is a fascinating conversation with Dr. Pete Glaser, now 84 and considered the father of the space-based solar power concept.
A large portion of the special report details the efforts of the Space-Based Solar Power Study Group who, in conjunction with the National Space Security Office (NSSO), published Space-Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security – Phase 0 Architecture Feasibility Study in October of 2007.
This special report includes the following five articles which discuss the potential for space-based solar power, with looks at its history, its current strategic importance and ways forward to make it a reality.
- ENERGY FROM ORBIT – John C. Mankins
- AN ENERGY PIONEER LOOKS BACK – William Ledbetter
- STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE – Space-Based Solar Power Study Group
- A NEW COALITION – Arthur Smith
- ON THE MOON – Al Globus
I shed a tear as I read the obituary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke yesterday. He regaled us with science fiction stories based on fantastic ideas of our future, both on and off the planet. He provided scientific commentary to us during the exciting days of Apollo moon missions, alongside Walter Cronkite. And he has given us many scientific ideas which have become realities like communication satellites, geosynchronous orbits and the space station. Sir Arthur also recently lent his support to the Google Lunar X-Prize competition.
When personal computers would barely fit in your living room let alone on your desk and the Internet was known only to a handful of DARPA researchers as ARPANET, I read a passage in 2001:A Space Odyssey that has stuck with me for over 30 years. It wasn’t even part of the story. It was a short note at the end of the book that said “The entire manuscript for this book was sent from Sri Lanka to my publisher in New York City on a single 5-1/4 inch floppy disk.” At that moment, I realized that if I one day become a writer, I could live and work from anywhere in the world. Little did I know what was to come … but I’ll bet Sir Arthur did.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke left us with three wishes:
“I would like to see some evidence of extra-terrestrial life.”
“I would like to see us kick our addiction to oil and adopt clean energy sources.”
“I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka.”
He ends his 90th Birthday Reflections video with this quote from Rudyard Kipling:
If I have given you delight
By aught that I have done,
Let me lie quiet in that night
Which shall be yours anon:
And for that little, little span
The dead are borne in mind
Seek not to question other than
The books I leave behind.
Rudyard Kipling, 1939
Guy Pignolet from the Sunsat Energy Council gave an interesting presentation about Space Solar Power on 7 February 2008 at a recent LIFT08 Conference.
To see the presentation on the LIFT08 Conference website, click here: Space Solar Power by Guy Pignolet
The National Federation of State High School Associations – Speech, Debate and Theatre Association (NFHS SDTA) has announced Alternative Energy as the 2008-2009 debate topic. One of the suggested debate resolutions is:
Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase alternative energy incentives in the United States.
This is an excellent opportunity for the current generation of students to become aware of and involved in advocacy for space-based solar power. The students of today have much to gain from the development and deployment of space-based solar power since the majority of them will still be alive near the end of the 21st century!
Space-based solar power would make an excellent topic for a high school debate, research paper of perhaps even a science fair project. Whatever the forum, the more folks that learn about the potential for space-based solar power, the more likely that our political and private sector leaders will become aware of it and influence our energy future as a result.
The NFHS SDTA debate topic paper “The Crisis in Energy: Can the United States Live with an Insatiable Thirst for More Fossil Fuels?” outlines the many aspects of energy independence and alternative energies very well, however it overlooks the concept of space-based solar power. I will attempt to contact the authors and provide them with resources to learn more about space-based solar power.
The idea of space-based solar power (SBSP), the generation of unlimited electricity from solar power with orbiting collectors and beaming the energy back to earth for distribution and use, has been around since 1968. Due to low fossil fuel costs and high per-payload-pound launch costs at the time, the idea was not financially feasible. The world has changed significantly since then.
From an open source, internet-based collaborative forum and the collective efforts of over 170 contributors, The USG National Security Space Office has issued a 75 page Phase 0 Architecture Feasibility Study titled “Space-Based Solar Power as an Opportunity for Strategic Security”. This study states that “technological challenges are closing rapidly and the business case for creating SBSP is improving with each passing year.”
Today, there are many drivers for the development of renewable (or practically unlimited) energy sources, with national defense, rampant over-population of the planet, quality of life for future generations and concern for the environment all near the top of the list. Yet we seem content to burn the fuels we can gather from our surroundings, much like our ancestral cave-dwellers did for tens of thousands of years before “modern” man’s arrival.
There are links to much more information about Space-Based Solar Power on the Learn More page. Once you have read about this exciting and potentially game-changing technology, go to the Get the Word Out page for suggestions on who to contact and links to assist. If you don’t want to start with a blank e-mail, use some of the text from the Starter Messages page to get started.
However you decide to do it, spread the word about Space-Based Solar Power. Your voice can make a difference for the future of our families … and for our planet.