Solar power stations in space – part 2

Posted: November 19, 2020 by oldbrew in Energy, ideology, innovation

Credit: NASA

Re our recent article on the idea of space-based solar power stations, a new article at The Conversation tells us the European Space Agency is also looking at this. Another day, another distant green dream, as these extracts from the article suggest. But at least they’re openly admitting renewables alone will never cut the mustard, either in scale or reliability of supply.
– – –
How solar power stations in orbit could become a reality in the coming decades.

Solar power stations in space could be the answer to our energy needs.
. . .
Renewable energy technologies have developed drastically in recent years, with improved efficiency and lower cost. But one major barrier to their uptake is the fact that they don’t provide a constant supply of energy.

Wind and solar farms only produce energy when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining – but we need electricity around the clock, every day. Ultimately, we need a way to store energy on a large scale before we can make the switch to renewable sources.
. . .
A single solar power station may have to be as much as 10 kilometres squared in area – equivalent to 1,400 football pitches.
. . .
One proposed solution is to develop a swarm of thousands of smaller satellites that will come together and configure to form a single, large solar generator.
. . .

From their own ESA link, we find this…

Why are solar power satellites not yet a reality?

Solar power satellites are by design relatively large structures and require advances in a number of key technical areas that push the boundaries of what is currently feasible in space. Some of these current technological bottlenecks include, but are not limited to:

Very large structures (manufacturing, deployment)

Construction (materials, modularity, in-orbit manufacturing, robotics…)

Power generation and onboard energy conversion (high voltages, efficient solar to electric and electric to microwave/laser conversions)

Thermal systems (efficient large radiators and distributed thermal subsystems)

Wireless power transmission systems (laser/microwave generation, control, focusing, pointing…)

Microwave/laser to electric conversion at receiving site(s)

Operations (station keeping, autonomy, safety, resilience and redundancy, maintenance and servicing, re-fuelling including with in-space resources)

Control (structures, formations, wireless power transmission beams)
– – –
Can ‘the climate’ wait for all that, assuming it’s even feasible? If so, the emergency myth is finished.

The ESA is running an ideas campaign…

For this Campaign we are specifically looking for new ideas in any of the following categories:

#1 Novel system concepts for space-based solar power stations for applications on Earth, the Moon, or Mars.

#2 Novel subsystem concepts or technologies with the potential to substantially increase the technical or economic feasibility of space-based solar power, with regards to any of the points listed in the section above.

#3 Novel methods of scaling and integrating space-based solar power into energy grids.

#4 Novel ideas that use the opportunities offered by in-space construction (use of in-space resources, elimination of launch constraints in terms of e.g. mass, size, structural requirements, volume, etc).

#5 New concepts for precursor in-space demonstrations.
. . .

All ideas will initially be evaluated on the sole criteria of novelty, meaning that they should clearly describe what is new compared to published concepts, techniques or processes. Novelty might include applying an existing, described, published concept in a new context.

  1. JB says:

    Prognosticated nearly 50 yrs ago. Talk. Talk. Talk. Gus Paulus Chevrolet.

  2. Hifast says:

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections and commented:
    Dusting off an old concept.
    Issues not considered include effect on animals–especially birds and insects–that may transit through the energy beams.

  3. pochas94 says:

    Free ride for whoever can connect with this SCAM.

  4. Dave Ward says:

    “Rectenna” If the beam ever drifted off the intended area anyone or anything in its path would certainly be wrecked…

  5. oldbrew says:

    Dave Ward says: November 19, 2020 at 5:42 pm

    An evil mastermind’s dream 😨

  6. ivan says:

    Two points they seem to have missed, 1) the size of the solar array in space. With several large stations they could provide blocking to the energy from the sun and so produce cooling of the world.
    2) the ‘rectenna’ is going to need several thousand square kilometres for the reciever array as well as about a 50 to 100 km no go area round that for safety.

    Can anyone remember the title of the SF story based on the aftermath of the ‘great burn’ when the space based power station lost beam lock and burned vast areas of countryside including towns and villages? If so maybe we should send a copy to those proposing this.

  7. BoyfromTottenham says:

    I guess that it is easy to forget that ‘solar power’ is just using nuclear energy from a safe distance. Technically, it is far less expensive and all things considered, far safer to just build nuclear power plants on earth to provide us with low cost, reliable power.

  8. cognog2 says:

    Any idea claiming novelty should only be considered if it is first established that it complies with the Laws of Thermodynamics. A great many do not.

  9. oldbrew says:

    Sounds expensive to say the least 😬

  10. gbaikie says:

    “Why are solar power satellites not yet a reality?”

    Short answer is NASA has not explored the moon- which they could done decades ago.
    But had NASA done it’s job, decades ago, at the the moment, solar power satellites would
    probably, still be decades before they could come become a reality.
    But it’s still not clear to me that NASA will actually explore the Moon, anytime soon.
    Though once NASA has done this, then perhaps it could take a few decades before SPS might start become a reality.

  11. oldbrew says:

    Ultimately, we need a way to store energy on a large scale before we can make the switch to renewable sources.

    Coal, gas and oil already do that. Carbophobes want to do the equivalent of reinventing the wheel 🙄

  12. BoyfromTottenham says:

    gbaikie, do you really believe that this loony idea can actually work? If you do I have a perpetual motion machine that I am happy to sell you for only $10 million – just send me a bank cheque payable to ‘cash’.

  13. oldbrew says:

    A single solar power station may have to be as much as 10 kilometres squared in area – equivalent to 1,400 football pitches.

    Better tidy up all the space junk first. Or admit the whole idea is silly.

  14. gbaikie says:

    –BoyfromTottenham says:
    November 20, 2020 at 11:45 am
    gbaikie, do you really believe that this loony idea can actually work? If you do I have a perpetual motion machine that I am happy to sell you for only $10 million – just send me a bank cheque payable to ‘cash’.–
    Which loony idea are you referring to?
    Do you mean the general idea that electrical power in space could be cheaper than 5 cent per kw hour, when at the moment it’s around $20 per kw hour?

    I don’t think solar energy works as viable source of electrical power on the Earth surface, in terms generating electrical power, though solar energy used to heat water can be viable/economical way to get hot water. So to make tap water be hot water, or to heat swimming pool water- and this is particularly true if you don’t have access a cheap natural gas.

    And trying to use solar power to generate electrical power in places like Germany is bat shit crazy as there is a lot better areas in the world to harvest solar energy. Or Germany is like where can we find one of worse places to spend trillions of dollars making electrical power from solar energy. And German wind energy is likewise, not viable way to generate electrical power for a nation.

    The simple reason generating electrical power from solar energy anywhere on the Earth surface is that on average it’s power source available about 25% of the time- and you tend get this electrical power when you least need it. And there other reasons that it is a bad idea.
    Anyhow if you get electrical power from solar energy 50% of the time, it would be a lot more viable, more than twice it’s value.
    And in lunar polar region, one can get solar power, 85% of the time. And on Mars one get it, about 50% of the time. And in Geostationary orbit, about 95% of the time.
    And with a grid {using many sites} on lunar polar region one get electrical power from solar energy somewhere around 99%, and same applies to Mars and GEO {GEO is actually 100%}.

    In terms of SPS, the other part {only real problem} is lowering the transportation cost, or the cost to launch stuff from Earth surface to Earth orbit. That might not be topic people have much understanding about. But I realize it’s the main problem, and it can be done.

  15. gbaikie says:

    –oldbrew says:
    November 20, 2020 at 2:44 pm
    A single solar power station may have to be as much as 10 kilometres squared in area – equivalent to 1,400 football pitches.

    Better tidy up all the space junk first. Or admit the whole idea is silly.–

    Well space junk is mostly problem in Low Earth orbit. Though related to this, is the “natural” space junk or the kind of stuff that creates meteor shower every year on Earth.

    So with solar power satellites you would not put them in LEO, though this article is suggesting this as an idea. But LEO is defined as less than 2000 km above earth orbit, and might talking about +600 km above Earth, which has less space junk. And one has the concept of Space is really big, really big. And gets bigger then higher you are above Earth. But anything +600 km above Earth has less atmospheric drag- or anything there, tends to stay there, and anything below 200 km, tends decay rapidly in orbit due to atmospheric drag- and particularly true when Earth atmosphere expands during Solar Max.
    Another problem is that where ISS flies {about 400 km} one gets sunlight about 60% of the time, though there are sun-synchronous orbits in LEO, in which one can get sunlight, 100% of the time.

    But real problem is costs to launch from Earth surface, Though if believe in Elon Musk, he talking about {and actually building his Starship} and he claims going to 1/10th the cost of launching stuff
    from Earth. Lower that cost by such a large amount, could be {maybe} a cheaper solution than what UK is currently wasting tax dollars on green or alternative energy.
    But SPS generally is a global market rather than a small island thing. But if UK also want to do something for say, Africa, then it could something more helpful than what UK is currently doing to help such regions.

  16. Диана says:

    Earth observation, Satellite communications, Navigation, Space science, Microgravity research and life sciences, Launchers, International Space Station, Space systems

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