Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 1 (1 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   1 comment

OpEdNews Op Eds

The Race for Space Solar Energy

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to None 3/23/11

Become a Fan
  (7 fans)

The failures of the General Electric nuclear reactors in Japan to safely shut down during the 9.0 Tahoku earthquake, following in the wake of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the deadly methane gas explosion in Massey's West Virginia coal mine, conclusively demonstrate the grave dangers to human society posed by current energy production methods.

The radiation plume from melting reactor cores and the smoke of burning spent fuel rods threaten the lives of the unborn; yet, they point in the direction of the only logical alternative to these failed policies -- the generation of an inexhaustible, safe, pollution-free supply of energy from outer space.

Presently, only the top industrialized nations have the technological, industrial and economic power to compete in the race for space solar energy. In spite of, and perhaps because of, the current disaster, Japan occupies the inside track, as it is the only nation that has a dedicated space solar energy program and which is highly motivated to change directions. China, which has launched astronauts into an earth orbit and is rapidly become the world's leader in the production of wind and solar generation products, will undoubtedly become a strong competitor. However, the United States, which should have every advantage in the race, is most likely to stumble out of the gate and waste the best chance it has to solve its economic, energy, political and military problems.

A Miraculous Source of Abundant Energy

Space-solar energy is the greatest source of untapped energy which could, potentially, completely solve the world's energy and greenhouse gas emission problems.

The technology currently exists to launch solar-collector satellites into geostationary orbits around the Earth to convert the Sun's radiant energy into electricity 24 hours a day and to safely transmit the electricity by microwave beams to rectifying antennas on Earth.

Following its proposal by Dr. Peter Glaser in 1968, the concept of solar power satellites was extensively studied by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). By 1981, the organizations determined that the idea was a high-risk venture; however, they recommended further study.

With increases in electricity demand and costs, NASA took a "fresh look" at the concept between 1995 and 1997. The NASA study envisioned a trillion-dollar project to place several dozen solar-power satellites in geostationary orbits by 2050, sending between two gigawatts and five gigawatts of power to Earth.

The NASA effort successfully demonstrated the ability to transmit electrical energy by microwaves through the atmosphere; however, the study's leader, John Mankins, now says the program "has fallen through the cracks because no organization is responsible for both space programs and energy security."

The project may have remained shelved except for the military's need for sources of energy in its campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the cost of gasoline and diesel exceeds $400 a gallon. A report by the Department of Defense's National Security Space Office in 2007 recommended that the U.S. "begin a coordinated national program" to develop space-based solar power.

There are three basic engineering problems presented in the deployment of a space-based solar power system: the size, weight and capacity of solar collectors to absorb energy; the ability of robots to assemble solar collectors in outer space; and the cost and reliability of lifting collectors and robots into space.

Two of these problems have been substantially solved since space-solar power was originally proposed. New thin-film advances in the design of solar collectors have steadily improved, allowing for increases in the efficiency of energy conversion and decreases in size and weight. At the same time, industrial robots have been greatly improved and are now used extensively in heavy manufacturing to perform complex tasks.

The remaining problem is the expense of lifting equipment and materials into space. The last few flights of the space shuttle this year will cost $20,000 per kilogram of payload to move satellites into orbit and resupply the space station.

It has been estimated that economic viability of space solar energy would require a reduction in the payload cost to less than $200 per kilogram and the total expense, including delivery and assembly in orbit, to less than $3,500 per kilogram.

Although there are substantial costs associated with the development of space-solar power, it makes far more sense to invest precious public resources in the development of an efficient and reliable power supply for the future, rather than to waste U.S. tax dollars on an ineffective missile defense system, an ego trip to Mars, or $36 billion in risky loan guarantees by the DOE to the nuclear power industry.

With funding for the space shuttle ending next year and for the space station in 2017, the United States must decide upon a realistic policy for space exploration, or else it will be left on the ground by other nations, which are rapidly developing futuristic space projects.

Next Page  1  |  2

 

http://www.votersevolt.com

William John Cox authored the Policy Manual of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Role of the Police in America for a National Advisory Commission during the Nixon administration. As a public interest, pro bono, attorney, he filed a class action lawsuit in 1979 petitioning the Supreme Court to order a National Policy Referendum; he investigated and successfully sued a group of radical (more...)
 

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Follow Me on Twitter

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Abortion: Government's Choice?

Ground the Airbus?

The Gore Presidency: An Alternative History

America's Economic Future: Nightmare or Vision?

Betrayed by the Bailout: The Death of Democracy

Concentration Camps in America: The Consequences of 40 Years of Fear

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
1 people are discussing this page, with 1 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

the United States, China, Japan, and perhaps Russi... by William John Cox on Wednesday, Mar 23, 2011 at 4:08:05 PM