Space-Based Solar Power

a public discussion sponsored by the Space Frontier Foundation

Obama Team Asking for Public Input on Space-Based Solar Power

Posted by Coyote on December 13, 2008

Fellow Advocates and Skeptics of Space-Based Solar Power

A few weeks ago, the Space Frontier Foundation (and another group that wishes to remain nameless) submitted a white paper on Space-Based Solar Power to the Obama transition team. Over the weekend this white paper was posted to the “Change.Gov” website by the Obama transition team to acquire public feedback on the idea that Space Solar Power (as it is called in the white paper) should be part of a balanced federal portfolio of energy research and development.

The Space Frontier Foundation’s white paper was among the first 10 white papers posted by the Obama transition team, and it is the only white paper on space (so far).

We clearly have the attention and interest of senior Obama policy officials.

In just a few days, there are over 200 comments from the public so far on the concept of new national initiative to invest in Space Solar Power. Quite a few of the comments are critical, and recommend that we continue to invest nothing in Space Solar Power.

If ever there was a time to participate in a discussion about nation’s future in space, it is now.

Your voice needs to be heard now.

If you want to make a difference in our nation’s future, then go to This will take you to the Change.Gov website where you can engage in this critical debate on whether America should invest in Space Solar Power.


Coyote (credit for authorship goes to Charles “Chazmanian Devil” Miller.)


34 Responses to “Obama Team Asking for Public Input on Space-Based Solar Power”

  1. Robert said

    On the SSP thread, I am seeing postings by naysayers (or at least one persistent naysayer), expressing repeat fears about weaponization or other perceived threats to life and environment posed by SBSP. Coyote saw this coming. I’ve noticed some encouraging posts from Gordon Woodcock, Ralph Nansen, Dr. Feng Hsu and others who may have worked on SBSP, but it would be nice to see Coyote, John Mankins, Dr. Lee Valentine, Dr. Peter Glaser, and other folks of reasonable calibre weighing in on the subject.

    We can preach to the choir here, but there is a legacy of ignorance to address, ignorance that has been paraded as knowledge over the last twenty years on talk radio, for example.

  2. Karl Henriksson said

    From the SBSP Report, Release 0.1, 10 October 2007:

    Target recurring mission cost: ~$225/ lb ($500/ kg) (net) or less, or ~$9M or less per mission; if baseload power is 8-10¢ / KW-hr, must reach this cost

    For comparison, the Space Shuttle cost to low earth orbit is ~$11,000 / lb (~$24,000 / kg); EELV’s or DIRECT will be ~$1,100 / lb (~$2,400 / kg)

    CO2 sequestration, with clean coal technology (not proven yet) is expected to raise coal-fired baseload power cost by factor of ~1.8 (Chemical Engineering Progress, Sept 2008, page 12); raising the cost of baseload power to 14.4-18.0¢ / KW-hr

    If CO2 sequestration, with clean coal technology is developed and mandated by the incoming Obama Administration, this raises the floor, only need recurring mission cost: ~$405/ lb ($900/ kg) (net) or less, or ~$16.2M or less per mission; if baseload power is 14.4-18.0¢ / KW-hr

    I am a chemical engineer by profession, and a lifelong space advocate; and especially an advocate of SBSP, after carefully studying both SBSP and other alternative energy sources. We will need other alternative energy sources as stopgaps until we can get SBSP on-line in a big way, but SBSP completes the process of solving our long-term energy problems.

    I have given power-point talks advocating SBSP to the Denver Space Society (a chapter of the NSS) and other concerned groups (as part of a larger picture on energy issues). I am sending a copy of this e-mail to the Obama team’s website.

  3. Tom N. said

    I’m about to post on the page you mentioned ( but I only see 2 comments as of 12/18/08. Where did the other 200+ comments go?! Is that URL not the correct one?

  4. K. Preddie said

    Many of the concerns listed about SPSP environmental impact have already been addressed.

    Regarding radiation from the power transmission, it will be about the same you get from cell phone towers and wireless access points used today.

    Regarding weaponization, that argument doesn’t seem to hold water, again, as we already have active-denial-systems based on beam energy (Laser [ABL], Microwave [ADS]) that have been developed without any SBSP involvement.

    I don’t want call this ‘naysayer’ hysteria, but I am bordering on it.

    NASA recently halted its all-volunteer SBSP demo work, which is very disturbing. (I’ve been told, however, the effort is not completely dead.)

    You hope the new administration takes a different approach to this energy game-changer called Solar Power Satellites.

  5. Apologies – the link to the discussion was broken when I added the hyperlink and dropped the final “/” in the URL. The link in Coyote’s post is corrected now.

    There are actually two pages at — one with the final “/” and one without. The most active page has 574 comments at this writing.

  6. I posted this under the “Weaponization, Environmental Risk” thread on this site last week, but have not received a response yet. Let’s hope posting this to a current thread elicits more action:

    I’m ready and willing to evangelize the planet on behalf of of SSP, stressing its stellar (pardon the pun) benefits over the fear factor… as far as I am concerned the fear factor can be drastically reduced if we can make available literature which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this technology is benign. More than benign: bountifully beneficial. But from the looks of the posts on, the public at large needs great reassurance that SSP will not cause cancer, negatively effect Earth’s atmosphere, or be appropriated for weaponization. I know this information is out there. If we can compile sufficient documentation in an easy-to-read format, I would be more than happy to work tirelessly in disseminating this information as a preliminary to stimulating public interest in order to gather funding for a commercial-grade SSP project. I have the next month off of school to begin working on this. Anyone interested in compiling such a document please e-mail me:

    Sorry to hear NASA’s volunteer project got dropped… i have a few innovative ideas regarding funding and lessening the cost to orbit of SSP systems, but i need some time to obtain the patents and to organize the novel funding efforts requisite to putting this idea back in the “ridiculously viable” category.

  7. Raymond N. Cox said

    The following is a bit sarcastic, but does illustrate the what if:
    It seems to me big is usually bad, but it is not easy to get from the present mega size to small and medium. We have hope of controlling small and medium organizations if they get overly greedy, etc. Perhaps we could tax assets over one million dollars at 1% per year. No exceptions, unless approved by a super majority of 70%. Foreign assets are not excluded, so forced collection of the 1% might take most of the USA assets. Clearly, most of the international moguls will leave the USA, fleeing with what assets are movable. Good riddance, since these are people who bribe our politicians. This is, however, hard to define as equal taxation. In my opinion Equal taxation has lots of problems: Can we collect $1000 per year each from homeless persons, babies, illegal immigrants, corporate executives, the local church, the school science club, the DOD = Department of Defence etc? I suppose they can pay later at 12% APR interest, if they don’t have the money. Perhaps they will flee the USA, if their tax debt gets big enough. Good riddance, in some cases. Besides the 300 million people, we have perhaps 100 million organizations = $400 billion dollars in federal government revenue = enough to operate a very lean federal government, but that leaves us vulnerable to terrorist attack and invasion even from tiny countries. We will need more funds for our military, for SSP and other efforts to stop using foreign oil. We could get that from people and groups with over one million in assets at 1% per year, since we need to make some exception from equal tax anyway. From rich people and corporations, we can regard certain kinds of public service as part or full payment of their 1% per year: T.Boone Pickens spent over 34 million dollars organizing Pickens Plan. To me, it seems reasonable to regard that as 1% of 3.4 billion dollars. Likely Pickens has overpaid, as his assets on December 31 will likely be less than 3.4 billion due to the down turn of the world economy. We likely do not want to regard the money Al Gore spends on his personal jet as beneficial to society, so that deduction gets complicated. I think you can see simple is often not fair and can produce bad results. Apparently most of us need to think long and hard about how to make our country better, as easy, and simple solutions usually produce horrible side effects. Neil

  8. Raymond N. Cox said

    ~enclosed is my comment, The rest is copy, paste and edit from the web address at the beginning of this thread~

    1. SSP is not ridiculous or silly. Does not violate any laws of physics. In most versions, is not usable as a weapon either in space or towards terrestrial targets. ~exceptions are a rather poor weapon~
    2. Major benefits: (a) Solar arrays or collectors, net after losses, collect 3 to 5 times as much solar energy as same size on the ground; (b) Can operate as a baseload power generator (produce power on demand, and continuously), which terrestrial solar cannot without a very large investment in energy storage.
    3. What’s become better since the 1970s (major points only)
    a. Solar arrays much more efficient, 35% vs 15%, expectations approach 50%.
    b. Efficient solid-state RF generators (the 70s studies assumed vacuum tube devices.)
    c. High-strength low-cost materials.
    d. Potential for “high-temperature” superconductors for on-satellite power distribution.
    e. Advances in automation and robotics probably mean it is no longer necessary to invoke scenarios of hundreds of in-space assembly workers.
    4.What’s not become better: Space transportation costs.
    5. Major challenges:
    a. Very high efficiency transmitting and receiving equipment must be developed for the selected frequency.
    b. Making solar arrays for space as cheap (per unit power) as those for terrestrial use.
    c. If laser transmission is contemplated, efficient conversion electric-laser in space and laser-electric on the ground, and coherent beam-forming.
    d. Space transportation cost: (i) launchers must be re-usable; (ii) launchers must have high probability of safe & intact recovery, about 0.9999 vs current experience less than 0.99; launchers must have operating life ~ 1000 or more flights; (iv) launchers must achieve turnaround times (launch to next launch) about 1 week; (v) launchers must use industrial commodities as propellants, e.g. liquid oxygen, hydrocarbon fuels, or hydrogen. Probably need high-power electric propulsion for transfer to geosynchronous orbit.
    e. Automated/robotic self-assembly in geosynchronous orbit.

    Terrestrial solar is the logical first step. Terrestrial solar and wind can produce up to about 30% of the energy generated on a power grid before the issue of not having on-demand capability becomes a major problem. Space solar power is a logical extension of terrestrial renew ables if the challenges noted above can be solved.
    SSP says:
    Why couldn’t material already present on the moon be utilized to avoid the need to launch much of it into space? If it presently costs about $8,000 to launch material into orbit, and the constituents of lunar dust consist of many of the elements needed for SSP, then there may be trillions of dollars worth of dust sitting on the moon’s surface. ~it is about as difficult to extract what we need from moon dust as it is from Earth dust which also has lots of good stuff~
    Wouldn’t it make sense to retrieve the material and assemble it in space rather than launch it from Earth at high cost?
    A says: Bringing materials/products from the Moon is a great idea, but Sunsat Corp should not be financially entangled in lunar settlement. Sunsat should have a single focus; delivering clean baseload power to earth. Many public and private companies should cooperate in lunar development. I like the idea of a Lunar Development Association sharing the work, fruits and opportunities, such as the opportunity to sell materials at arms length, as just another vendor to Sunsat corp. Supplying materials from the Moon is 20 times more energy efficient, that is, it costs twenty times as much energy to place a pound at GSO from Earth than it does from the Moon. ~but delivery from the moon is presently about as costly as delivery from the Earth~
    N says: Terrestrial solar, wind, and algae created biofuel, at the moment, have the most promise. ~a ten megawatt GEO thermal unit just began operation with about 200 degree f water as the heat source. It only took 6 months to assemble this power plant in Beaver County, Utah. It is claimed that low temperature geothermal is available in the USA for 1/3 of our electricity needs~ Energy storage for “cloudy days and night” can be done by a multitude of methods ~typically doubling the cost of the electricity~ All of that technology is functional and tested. ~Neil~

  9. Raymond N. Cox said

    ~more cut and paste and edit from the website at the beginning of this thread. There is more~
    Personally, I do think that laser is a good transmission method, but am concerned that no matter how safe it’s made, people will always react as though it can be weaponized. The energy densities are far higher, so it’s a much harder case to make with the average Joe. While I have no doubt that the systems can be engineered failsafe, the public simply doesn’t have the background to understand why that’s so.

    Launch technologies are a matter of will. As other posts have pointed out, there are many ways to accomplish the task, and no doubt many that have yet to be flushed out. If the goal is to eventually acquire most of the materials for follow-on sunsats from space resources, it then frees up that launch capability for other uses other than power infrastructure.
    G says: The fundamental problem (as we all know) for getting into space is the rocket equation. Dr. Koelle’s Neptune rocket design, probably the best at the current state of the art, delivers one part in 60 of liftoff mass to GEO or about one part in 20 to LEO. We need to either avoid the whole thing with something like a space elevator or figure out how to get really high exhaust velocities. We lack the cable to go all the way to the surface, but if you put the bottom of an elevator out about an earth diameter and use rockets to get to the lower end, that only takes about 24% of the energy needed to get into LEO. Current material are supposed to be good enough for this partial elevator.

    The other approach, which I have discussed at length with Jordin Kare, only works for a high traffic model. The idea is to use a rocket first stage to 260 miles then as it gets out of the atmosphere, use a 4GW laser bounced from GEO to accelerate a 50 ton mass ratio 2 laser stage at 1.25 g over a 2000 plus mile range. This pop up and push seems to provide about 6 times as much launch capacity as using lasers from the surface and it gets the payloads up to 25 tons. You launch 4 times an hour for the needed 100 tons per hour throughput.

    Either method looks like it will get the cost into the range of $1000/kg to GEO–with obvious effects on the economics of power sats.

    Details here:
    I looked at your url, and like your figures. The pop up and push concept seems to be a self starter. With a 100 ton per hour cargo to orbit lift, your “little” rocket sounds like a winner @ 4 launches per hour. What would be your cost projection for a fleet of them large enough to accomplish the 4/hr scheduling?
    No, sir, the fundamental problem for getting into space is NOT the rocket equation any more.
    This equation was developed in the early part of the 20th Century and relates to space vehicles with rocket propulsion only, where the earth’s atmosphere plays no role, and the mass of the vehicle decreases as the fuel on board is consumed.
    However, towards the end of the last century, vehicles headed for space were conceived as “aerospacevehicles” that used the earth’s atmosphere for
    (a)Propulsion systems that increased the mission average fuel efficiency, and
    (b)For increasing the vehicle’s mission average mass ratio by extracting as much as 65% of vehicle mass while in atmospheric flight.
    Put together, such aerospacevehicles deliver a payload efficiency 15% to 30% according to later studies. This is as much as ten-to-twenty times higher than the proven Shuttle and 3 to 6 times higher than Dr. Koelle’s Neptune rocket design.
    21st century designers will soon have to extend the rocket equation and add a new part to the basic rocket equation to include air breathing space vehicles whose mass increases in flight from earth to orbit.
    a)Propulsion systems that increased the mission average fuel efficiency, and
    b)For increasing the vehicle’s mission average mass ratio by extracting as much as 65% of vehicle mass while in atmospheric flight.

    Please read that part as :
    (a)Propulsion systems that substantially increased the mission average fuel efficiency, and
    (b) By extracting up to 65% of vehicle mass while in atmospheric flight the overall mission average mission mass ratio is altered.
    Put together, the product of (a) x natural logarithm of (b) the orbital velocity. This is higher and such aerospacevehicles deliver payload efficiency 15% to 30% according to later studies. This is as much as ten-to-twenty times higher than the proven Shuttle and 3 to 6 times higher than Dr. Koelle’s Neptune rocket design
    I’m not a mathematics man, just an aerospace engineer. The inconvenience cause by the error is regretted!!
    H says: I have worked this field all my working life and I’m not aware of any system that offers 15% to 30% of vehicle dry mass as payload (3% to 5% tops)

    A Mass-Launch/ Laser Propulsion concept, proposed by Marshall T. Savage, would theoretically achieve 50% of vehicle dry mass as payload.

    Savage’s stats are for a five ton cargo in a five ton capsule, with a four ton solid water propellant block. All the figures are metric. ~Neil~

  10. Rob Mahan said

    George Friedman, founder of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, has written a book titled The Next 100 Years. In the following video summary of the book at about the 1:50 mark, Friedman predicts that space-based solar power will be one of two dominate forces that will shape global warming. He also predicts that the United States will become the major source of energy for the entire world.

    George Friedman YouTube video

    Rob Mahan
    Citizens for Space Based Solar Power

  11. Robert said

    I submitted this to the “Citizens Briefing Book” on yesterday. I hope it helps rather than confuses and it isn’t too long. I’m aware that Coyote and company have to concentrate on next steps and frustrating budget constraints, but we can hope that some purse strings loosen and brain cells fire by going occasionally for the broad brush, which, for me, was most artful in the hands of Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill and Dr. Peter Glaser.

    “Towards Abundant Energy and New Choices”

    The sun’s energy is clean, permanent, and best accessed at geosynchronous orbit where there is no weather, latitude issue, or nighttime. Space Solar Power (SSP), invented in 1968 by Dr. Peter Glaser and reviewed favorably by NASA, DOE, and DOD, should be pursued as part of a rational clean energy strategy.

    Working together with ground feeder solutions like wind, ground-solar, geothermal, safe nuclear, etc., SSP can scale to meet all of the clean baseload energy needs of 2100. With the electrification of transportation, it can run fleet vehicles as well.

    SSP can be the industrial driver to develop not only cheap space access from the surface, but to build cis-lunar infrastructure for the manufacturing of free-space habitats, sunsats, radioastronomy stations (on the lunar farside), and large ships of interplanetary exploration. Lunar and asteroid materials can comprise 99% of the mass of these structures, and they can be launched and moved to space-based processing plants by electromagnetic means rather than by expensive and dirty chemical rockets.

    To help ensure that the sunsat is not feared as a weapon, energy transmission to the ground from geo can be by low-density microwaves of wide dispersion at the receiving antenna. Power would then be converted at the station and sent out through the normal electric grid. Operational safety can be targeted through insurance inspection, and risk and profits can be shared by participants.

    For maximum safety and transparency, SSP can pursued as a muti-national activity led by the United States, and regulated through agreements patterned after COMSAT, for example, which oversees satellite communications.

    SSP can be the lead market reason to settle space. A civilization living in three dimensions as opposed to just two and accessing abundant energy from the home star can set about to mitigate some degree of conflict over perceived dwindling energy resources and living space. This activity is a winner.

    While arguments abound pro and con about SSP, I believe it serves the middle path towards energy abundance and humankind’s success. Future generations can make new choices: for example, whether to live and work on the surface of the earth or in other gravitationally friendly locations.

    Leadership in these times is hard, but SSP can coordinate missions in NASA, DOE, and DOD while aligning presidential decisions in energy, space, security, commerce, environment, and education. We can choose not to lead the world in SSP and leave it to others, but we will lose terribly if we make such a choice. We should choose to win.

  12. Bill Rigney said

    Good day, I would like to know if there is/was any discussion or work towards non pv power generation aboard our space vehicles. Specifically: replacing those football field sized panels with a blister about the size of a kitchen table. Talk to Don Videtto at and he’ll build you one in a few days. I know he can do it; I worked with him at Douglas Aircraft Long Beach for over 15 yrs. and there ain’t much he don’t know about solar energy/heat transfer. Thank you, Bill Rigney, Redding, Ca.

  13. Robert said

    Sales pitch anyone?

    ExxonMobil has reported a $45.2B profit in 2008, up from $40.6B in 2007. They have just beaten their own world record for profits.

    If Exxon as a successful energy enterprise maintains its focus on growth, diversification of holdings, and short and long term profits, could the team in Irving, TX be approached on a space solar proposal as a large investment opportunity? Such a pitch could appeal along the lines of environmental stewardship, jobs creation, energy independence, etc.

    Just wondering. Who out there could do this? Too soon? Bad idea? etc. etc.

  14. Amy said

    Awesome! I love this stuff. Without Ecology their is no Economy. If we can harness this new technology we could create so many jobs during these hard times. This is the only way to move forward as a country. WE MUST have energy independence, job creation and environmental accountability to make it for the next 1,000 years. Thanks to all who are working so diligently towards a new way for us all.

  15. Black Panther Launch Services said

    I have some questions

    1 What is the total net worth of energy usage by the G8 nations?

    2 Is the US economy willing to invest in the Gold and silver standard again? The current GDP of the planet is less than 10 trillion a year.Everybody benefits by factoring this equation with off world resource utilization.

    3 How many jobs both on and off world can be created by an aggressive industrialazation strategy?

    My guess is millions on the ground and tens of thousands in and on Lunar space if several billion is invested in the right new space start up companies.It is possible to get a 3x on return within 15 years if the right bankers get fired up.

    This bailout plan will cause massive inflation and massivly destructive resource wars ,SSP is a safe alternitive at a fraction of the cost.

  16. sunny said

    The information is very substanstial and it will benefit a lot of people in the near future. Promote solar use.

  17. william hauber said

    Dear Sirs:
    On October 13, 1970 I submitted an idea to Dr. Wernher Von Braun suggesting a stationary orbit thermal/electric/microwave powersat concept based on a parabolic plastic mirror array focussing on a collector/converter that would beam down to a receiving station. I believe Dr. Glaser´s idea for a PV array was a no-starter due to the high costs of shipment and assembly plus the still inefficient photovoltaic conversion rate. However, through the years I have met with a brick wall despite all of my correspondence with NASA (inventions board), Boeing, Arthur D. Little, etc. Yet my gut feeling is every bit as strong as 39 years ago. Let’s get this very necessary project off the ground!!

  18. Jeff Wright said

    I would hope that Obama might cancel F-22 and maybe F-35, advance ARES V and have an SPS demonstrator be that LVs first payload.

    I hope he has Pete Worden become Air Force Chief of Staff, and howabout Coyote be the new NASA Chief Administrator?

    Something to really scare the fighter-jocks.

  19. Michael Jensen said

    hi coyote,

    I am a canadian preparing a report on what a group of us think should be a priority for the canadian space program. I have heard, (, that Canada currently -is- interested in space based solar power. Could you possibly identify who in canada expressed this interest?


    -Mike 🙂

  20. Michael Jensen said

    btw, still listning to the archived radio program… (where you strongly recommend people like me contacting you here 😉 you folks have a lot to say!

    cheers again,

    mike 🙂

  21. Robert said

    Mr. Jeff Wright,
    A NASA Administrator called “Coyote”? His experience, focus, communications skills, and education work for me. The handle adds some color and the story is a cool one for the folks. Acme LVs are not likely part of the picture, fortunately.

  22. Jordan said

    We really need to get more people to convert, solar energy is much better for saving our environment, but also money! This subject kinda inspired me to start my own little “solar power review” site to help get people motivated to convert…Solar Energy 4 U

  23. mthomas said

    I’ve patented Microwave Power Transmission Satellite.(won’t ever publish at my request, proprietary)

    I’m in discussions with some Asian Countries. US wants to go with Solaren. (wont work)

  24. Raymond N. Cox said

    Low cost delivery to GEO orbit. How about an orbiting tether about 628 kilometers long? It rotates once per hour, so the end passes within about 50 kilometers of the ground while the other end is at an altitude of 678 kilometers. A hypersonic airplane attaches the payload at an altitude of about 51 kilometers, 30 minutes later the pay load is released at an altitude of about 678 kilometers. The circumference of the tip travel is 2000 kilometers, so the speed of the tip is 2000 kilometers per hour, add the speed of rotation of Earth’s equator = about 1600 kilometers per hour subtract the orbital speed of about 28,000 kilometers per hour = -24,400 kilometers per hour = the required speed of the hypersonic airplane. The minus sign has little or no meaning. The release speed is the sum = 31,600 kilometers per hour, so the pay load can go anywhere in the inner solar system, except Mercury and the Sun with a minor mid course correction. So a sling shot maneuver around Jupiter is possible, allowing anywhere in the solar system.
    The tether strength requirements are moderate, unless we increase the rotational speed, which decreases the hypersonic airplane speed. Retiring ICBMs = intercontinental ballistic missiles can be modified to attach small pay loads, so we can test the concept without building the hypersonic airplane. There are some more details: 1 We need to reduce the jerk which occurs shortly after attachment, to avoid breaking the tether 2 The tether will be a lazy S instead of straight due to air resistance at 50 kilometers, but the payload and the air resistance will stretch the tether. These tend to cancel. 3 The lift and air resistance are not free, so we will need to restore the 2000 kilometers per hour and circularize the orbit after a few payload lifts. 4 Up to 48 payloads per day can be lifted. 5 The orbit can be semi-polar allowing easy access by most of the nations of Earth and a wide range of throw directions for the payload. 6 The tether will have stretch transients which can aggravate or help the attachment and the throw accuracy. 7 Making the tether longer reduces air resistance and the speed of the hypersonic airplane, but initial cost rises rapidly with length. 8 This concept was published in an old Analog perhaps 20 years ago. 9 An Edwards type climber should travel the tether to repair damage by space junk, atomic oxygen and micro meteorites. Neil

  25. Raymond N. Cox said

    Most of is no longer accepting comments, but I just successfully submitted two suggestions at Most any suggestion can be related to the ecconomy so this should be a good choice. Neil

  26. EcoHearth said

    Check this out:, a very simple but comprehensive summery of the space based solar issue.

  27. William Jorgensen said

    With little time remaining before an energy crunch makes large scale production and transportation problematic, it would behoove us all were we to globalise energy production.

    As solar energy is limited to the amount of solar energy collected per solar cell, and, energy storage is reliant on expensive production and reproduction of large and effective batteries, the use of solar balloons in large solar balloon arrays seems the most economic and quickest way to avoid calamitous power shortages.

    With current available conductive tethering technology, and new solar-film photovoltaics, it would be feasable to loft large solar balloon arrays across the U.S., Europe and Asia.

    The location and elevation of these arrays would allow over-the-horizon collection of solar energy long before dawn and long after dusk. Such arrays spread across the globe would ensure that excess energy could be traded from daytime-lit nations to other nations in need of night-time energy supply.

    Other benefits include the planet-cooling effect of solar reflection into space and the shadow-effect on specific geological locales ie. deserts and tundra. Also, a reduction in global conflict would ensue as every nation would rely on every other nation for it’s available night-time energy needs. Of course a global power grid would eventually become a certainty if not a necessity.

    At this time limited and available helium is being lost in the propcessing of natural gas (90 billion cubic feet per annum in the U.S.) straight into space where it is lost forever. Collecting this valuable inert gas for future use is of prime importance – sooner rather than later – before it is mostly gone and lighter-than-air technologies become prohibitively expensive.

    • Raymond N. Cox said

      There are several balloons tethered long term at about 15,000 feet not far North of the Mexican boarder. Somewhat higher is likely practical, before the pay load falls to zero. Thin film solar cells are available which could coat the top 2/3ds of each balloon. Most days these would provide near full output from sun rise to sunset at the tether tie down location. Almost half of the energy is returned = reflected back to space, another 30% heats the helium, which allows somewhat higher altitude most afternoons. The winch at the bottom can generate perhaps one kilowatt hour per day net when the tether is being extended due to higher altitude and winds. The tether can deliver net perhaps 1000 kilowatt hours per day to the grid, if comparatively little lighting on the tether and balloon is required. CNT with great specs will improve performance considerably, when and if it becomes available. flying electric generators = FEG could be tethered to the balloons to supply some night time electricity plus some maneuverability.
      I agree, we will regret venting helium to our atmosphere, perhaps quite soon as helium filled balloons may soon become important. Considerable R&D costs are awaiting cheap balloons over 500 feet in diameter. Hydrogen is ok at high altitudes, but we can not assure that the balloons will always be at high altitude = hydrogen burns poorly above about 15,000 feet due to low oxygen partial pressure. Neil

  28. Chris said

    This issue was recently discussed on the Quirks & Quarks radio show. There is a (skeptical) response here:

  29. Robert said

    Dr. John Marburger III, GW Bush’s science adivsor, was all about the use of lunar materials for the construction of useful “apparatus” for earth. Bush’s VSE is rather an OK path for space solar. I didn’t know this previously.

  30. John said

    I think the government needs to spend more resources on alternate energy, be it solar or otherwise. America cannot afford to rely on fossil fuels. Not only for the environment and for the sake of reducing our dependence on other nations, we need to have alternative energy source.

    Thesis Help

  31. Robert said

    Well, VSE is no more. Too expensive, too wasteful, too late. Now we wait to see what Congress will do, but NASA’s new direction, as I understand it, is encouraging and sensible. NSS is right, still, to call for reach beyond low orbit. Let’s develop the moon.

  32. Alternate energy shcemes like this need to be debated in a much more widespread way. We need to be more conscious of the possibilities and the potential research that can be done – that research doens’t get the funding it should. Let’s hope getting this message out can grow exponentially.

  33. We are planning four solar parks across the globe. We are looking at South Africa, California in the US, Australia and Gujarat. All these projects are of the same size, as of now. The overall capacity to be generated from solar energy in the four projects could go as high as 20,000 Mw.

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