The goal of space-based solar power is to provide clean energy whose collection and use is safer than the current carbon-based alternatives. An interesting concern was raised by a person who blogged in response to the posting by my friend, Noah Shactman, in the “Danger Room.” The blogger writes:
“If the conversion efficiency [at the rectenna on the ground] were 100%, you’d lose nothing to heat during the conversion. If it’s less than 100%, there will be a net warming of the planet as a consequence to collecting this energy. It doesn’t matter if [the power beamed from space is] infrared or microwave.
But the real losses come from *using* that energy. Few tasks that we use electricity for do not produce waste heat somehow. This is heat energy that did not previously exist in our atmosphere. I’d be surprised if anything less than 99.9% of this energy did not ultimately get converted to heat on the ground.”
I think it is safe to assume that people will continue to *use* energy in the future, but we are trying to provide a safer, more environmentally friendly alternative energy source. What efficiencies do we need on the gound to prevent this from becoming a curse rather than a blessing?