Monday, March 24, 2014

Space solar power, Navy edition

I noticed this a few days ago: "The Navy's Plan to Beam Down Energy from Orbiting Solar Panels." I've been reading and writing about space solar power for a solid 20 years now--ever since I was reporting an article for Insight magazine on commercializing space and happened to interview Peter Glaser, visionary of the idea. At first, I wasn't sure he wasn't pulling my leg or perhaps crazy as he spoke about beaming solar power down from orbit. Further research confirmed this is a serious idea, albeit a technically and economically challenging one. Here are some pieces and posts I've written involving the subject over the years. I recommend keeping an eye on space solar power--as something that might become important to the world environment and economy--and as one of the various areas in which current categories of left and right might blur or swap as advanced technologies become feasible. I could imagine a pro-solar right and anti-solar left a couple of decades from now, as this technology's military relevance and sheer bigness makes it a progressive bugaboo. Or maybe conservative talk radio will be warning that the government is building a capacity to incinerate its opponents from orbit.


Ray Haupt said...

I too had heard of this before but had dismissed it as science fiction. It still seems that way but apparently some serious scientists think it possible.
Collecting power in outer space is understandable but I find the notion of getting it down to Earth to be perplexing. Just how would this be possible?
Perhaps a laser focusing onto a receiving device is one way. I would imagine the number of birds cooked in flight would be fairly small and aircraft would have to avoid the beam. It sounds a bit James Bondish.
But what other ways? A wire as part of the "space elevator" perhaps? That too seems an unlikely deal. It seems to me the most likely possibility would be a giant electromagnetic waveguide similar to radar. Electrical energy is then transmitted in a narrow beam to a ground receiving station.
I am skeptical of this project in terms of being economically feasible but it is interesting to ponder and I would not at all be surprised if engineers were to devise a method to import energy from outer space.

Kenneth Silber said...

I am in transit so have to reply briefly but the ways I've heard discussed are microwaves and lasers. I've seen some analysis that its safe--that birds can just fly through it--but I'm sure we'll hear opposing views if this becomes closer to reality.

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