Space-Based Solar Power

a public discussion sponsored by the Space Frontier Foundation

Power Grids May Need Modernization to Take SBSP!

Posted by Coyote on August 29, 2008

It is critical for business case developers and architectural designers to consider how we will feed the energy provided by space-based solar power satellites from the rectifying antenna on the ground into the existing power grids. Wind power is already having a major problem within this.

Our friend, starbase202, sent me this interesting article that describes the problem. It comes from the New York Times online: (please disregard shots taken at political figures in the article–that’s not our aim here)

Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits
by Matthew L. Wald
published 26 August, 2008

This is something we clearly need to keep in mind as we pursue space-based solar power.

Does this make space-based solar power measurably more difficult?




6 Responses to “Power Grids May Need Modernization to Take SBSP!”

  1. Allen Taylor said

    The issue of an antiquated grid is being addressed from a technical standpoint by the IEEE. The 2009 Power Systems conference & Exposition will be held MArch 15-18 in Seattle. for more info go to

  2. Coyote said

    Allen Taylor: Thanks for the heads-up! I hope this is worked out quickly.



  3. Jeff Barnes said

    The case is a little peculiar in that transmission line placement is done to avoid areas that have high constant wind. Wind turbines are instaleed in these areas so that new transmission lines have to be run to these locations. Wind causes the induction and capacitance between the lines to change causing increased power loss in the transmission. A SBSP rectenna would be easily placed next to a transmission backbone such as the one that travels north-south down the center of the Florida peninsula. The large cities and generation plants which are all on the coast are nodes off of the central backbone. The plants are located on the coast for assured access to water for cooling. The rectenna dosen’t need water just open area. Most high power transmission travels through open areas because it is cheaper than trying to run it through high population or rough terrain. This is true for the placement of a rectenna as well so most of the transmission line problems for wind power won’t show up as a problem for SBSP. It will be treated just like any other large power plant that is remote location. In fact rectennas could be co-located to existing power plants since they are generally out away from population areas.

  4. Neil Cox said

    Hi Jeff; Thank you. I was not aware of the Florida peninsula backbone and you are correct, there are no large cities, except Orlando near the center line of the peninsula. There are however some power plants along the ST Johns River. At Palatka, Florida, about 30 miles West of the Atlantic Ocean and at Sanford, Florida about 40 miles West of the Atlantic Ocean and about 10 miles East of Orlando.
    For bringing West Texas wind turbine power To Tampa, Florida (on the Gulf coast about 50 miles West of Orlando) I have been suggesting HVDC, because the distance is about 1000 miles, and losses would be about half for a equally costly one gigawatt three phase ac power line. About half as much copper is required for HVDC, an important consideration as copper prices will likely continue to rise. I suppose capacitance and inductance changes (due to wind gusts and turbulence) also produce some mischief on HVDC, but I would think much less power loss than 60 hertz.
    Unless we start thinking much less than the typical ten to twenty square miles for rectennas, they need to be built on water, swamp, or other very cheap land. Several very wide spots in the St. Johns river might be a good location, for Florida. The St. Johns River has a maximum depth of about 80 feet, and flows gently. Neil

  5. Robert said

    The St. Johns stretches some 310 miles from Jax to Indian River in the middle of the state. Its velocity is very low since there is a difference in elevation of only 30 feet from mouth to highest point. This flat characteristic allows it to spread to an average width of 2 miles, maximum 3 miles. There is a lot of swamp and otherwise undeveloped land surrounding it and continuing down to the Everglades. I’m a former Jax resident, now living in Tampa.

  6. One advantage of SBSP is that it should be a stable and predictable level of energy. It can add to the baseline energy available on the grid.

    For extra expense, this energy could also be stored at the reception points during low consumption periods to increase the power available when demand is high.


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