Space Solar Power Track at the ISDC

The Space Solar power track at the ISDC took place on Friday afternoon and Sunday morning with John Mankins receiving an award and making a Space Solar Power presentation on Saturday Night.  The presentations made clear the situation that the Space Solar Power community is facing.  Feng Hsu and Mike Snead showed that by the end of the century power demand will far exceed supply, as conventional sources dwindle and renewables can not expand to fill the gap.  There was wide agreement that we have the technology to make Space Solar Power work. The only real issues were how best to make Space Solar Power work, at what price and in which markets.

It is clear to me that since the world will desperately need power within 90 years and Space Solar Power can provide it is simply a question of when and how Space Solar Power will become a reality not if.   Since Space Solar power will become a reality we can alleviate a lot of suffering if we begin developing it now instead of waiting until power prices are soaring and black outs and brown outs are common.

Here are the issues-

Lasers or Microwaves for power transmission?
Which frequency?
Ready for development or need some government funded research?
Commercial, Government or Public -Private Partnership development?
Construction techniques?
Placement of receivers?

The steps are clear. Seek government involvement to fund experimental research and technology demonstrations as well as working the policy issues like securing a frequency and orbital slots from the ITU and developing safety standards for receiving power.  Private involvement to research markets, develop business plans and secure funding as well as develop technology.

Space Solar Power can provide clean baseload power to all.   The only question is do start now and make its development and adoption, slow and painless or wait a couple more decades so the development of space solar power will be frantic and chaotic in the face of desperate circumstances?


Karen Cramer Shea

4 thoughts on “Space Solar Power Track at the ISDC”

  1. Recent conceptual advances make it possible SBSP could do more than supply baseload power. At one of the ISDC sessions the consensus was that 2 cents per kWh is the level at which SBSP will displace fossil fuels by simply under pricing them.

    The killer issue of power satellites is getting the parts to make them to GEO at a cost where the power can be sold for that little (and make a profit).

    The math is here: The target for two cent per kWh is under $100/kg to GEO.

    It looks like a combination of chemical for the first step and lasers for the second will get down to perhaps $50.

    If that can be done, then you build power sats for the *peak* load. And since shutting them off doesn’t save anything, any power above the current load would be diverted into making hydrogen. That can be used to make carbon neutral synthetic fuel.

    More including the pro forma financial model if anyone wants it.

    Keith Henson

  2. I don’t think 2 cents a kilo watt hour is necessary to make SSP a profitable business.

    We shouldn’t be looking at what is paid for the first kilowatt we should be looking at what is being paid for the last kilowatt.

    What are power companies paying for power when they are skirting brown outs and black outs? I remember in Seattle during one cold snap they were running a coal fired plant even though they were having to pay astronomical EPA fines to do it.

    With one Space Solar Power Satellite and startegically placed recievers power could go to the highest bidder nationwide. Pitting New York agianst LA on a moment to moment basis. Which one willl lose power depends on what the other is willing to pay.

    If we believe Mike Snead’s predictions of future power demand and supply it is not a matter of if Space Solar Power will be commercially viable but when.

  3. Karen Shea wrote:

    “I don’t think 2 cents a kilo watt hour is necessary to make SSP a profitable business.”

    I agree, but it depends on what you want to do. If it is to undercut and wholesale replace fossil fuels, then 2 cent (1 cent off peak) is about right.

    What you want to do is get into the business at lowest cost. That actually might be at a lower per kWh cost (and higher volume).


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