Can we shoot concentrated solar power down from space?
CNN takes a look an energy long shot that could change the game on climate change: space-based solar power. The idea is to launch satellites covered with solar panels up into geosynchronous orbit, where the sun is always shining, and beam the power back down to land-based receivers. A 2007 Pentagon study concluded that “a single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous Earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today.”
The article focuses on the obvious problem: cost. Back in the ’70s when the U.S. was looking at this seriously, NASA concluded getting all the infrastructure up into space would run about $1 trillion.
That’s a lot. It’s only about a third of what we’ll end up spending on the Iraq war, though, and if it buys basically limitless clean electricity, it will be a bargain. But NASA has blown it before, and betting $1 trillion is a bit much.
What I want to know is: Are massive microwave beams of power shooting through the atmosphere not cause for worry? Think of the birds!