Peter Sage of Space Energy Inc. gives a fascinating and inspiring talk on Space Based Solar Power which shows why harvesting solar energy in space and wirelessly transmitting it back to earth will soon become the energy source of the very near future. More info at www.SpaceEnergy.com
First space-to-earth solar power station targeted for Oct. 2010
By Sterling Allan, Examiner.com
Last Monday, I interviewed Sir Charles Shults III of Xenotech Research which has several projects under way: 1) moving near the New Mexico space port to expedite development of an orbital solar power project for deployment in Oct. 2010; 2) ramping up for manufacturing of an affordable, modular 500W Solar Pod for purchase within six months; 3) designing a residential wind turbine expected to be 1/3 the cost of others.
Because of his work with what apparently will be the first functioning space-based solar array for transmitting power to earth, Sir Charles was invited to be part of the recent groundbreaking for Spaceport America on June 19 in New Mexico, near Truth or Consequences — yes, that’s the name of a town. Shults is relocating Xenotech Research there so they’ll be conveniently located for their work in conjunction with the deployment of what apparently will be the world’s first space-based solar collector and transmission project, to be carried out by the Space Island Group. Space Island Group (SIG) is the leader in the commercialization of space and plans to design, build and operate commercial space transportation systems and destinations that are dedicated to commerce, research, space solar power, satellite repair, manufacturing and tourism. (Ref.)
The solar collector components will be piggy-backed to space along with the space tourism that will be carried out. Sir Charles told me he has recently been negotiating with Gene Meyers and Terry Martin of SIG. They are looking to him to supply some technologies for their orbital solar power project, having received permission to orbit a solar power satellite demonstrator and will soon be building receiving stations on the ground for the proof of principle. Sir Charles’ involvement includes advising on methods for moving craft from lower to higher orbits using less rocket fuel; energy generation technology; and technology for power-receiving antennas on the ground.
They plan for the first proof of concept solar station to be deployed in a low earth orbit of 300 miles in October of 2010, generating around 12-13 kilowatts. The power will be transmitted via precisely-tuned microwave frequencies, and will require “no fly zones” above the receiver area on earth.
By 2012, they intend to deploy a 1 gigawatt (akin to a nuclear power plant output) geosynchronous space solar station up around 22,300 miles, which will be constantly available on earth except during lunar eclipses of the solar station. The intensity of solar energy in space above the Earth’s atmosphere is 1360 watts per square meter, compared to a maximum of 960 Watts/m2, depending on angle through the earth’s atmosphere. (Ref.) Taking into consideration the day-night cycles and cloud cover, an earth-based solar system, even in an ideal location, will only generate about 20% as much power as what the same sized space-based array could generate.
At first, the receiving stations will be fixed-location utilities, but Sir Charles said that in the future, it’s conceivable that one could have a mobile device with a subscription to receive power, very similar to a cell phone account. For this reason, the military has been especially interested in the technology, as it would resolve fuel supply-line issues.
The transmission of power apparently can be done very efficiently as well. Sir Charles said that according to new work being done by Mitsubishi in Japan for cell phone power, wireless point-to-point transmission on earth presently exceeds the efficiency of copper wire-based transmission.
The space solar initiative has been in development since 1970, when the original proposal was made.
The space tourism initiative has been given momentum recently by Burt Rutan who made the first successful non-government-sponsored space flight (actually three). His technology was purchased by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, who then hired Burt to design a larger transport system which will be the basis of the first commercial space flights. (Ref.)
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PowerSat Corporation (www.powersat.com), a pioneer in safe and reliable energy generation from space, today announced the filing of U.S. Provisional Patent No. 61/177,565 or “SPACE-BASED POWER SYSTEMS AND METHODS.” The patent includes two technologies, BrightStar and Solar Powered Orbital Transfer (SPOT), which enable the reduction of launch and operation costs by roughly $1 billion for a 2,500 megawatt (MW) power station.
“This patent filing is a watershed moment not only for PowerSat but for a renewables industry that, until now, could neither compete economically nor generate power at the base load scale of oil or coal,” said PowerSat CEO William Maness. “Today, the convergence of technology and energy demand, combined with the political will to wean us off of fossil fuels, enables space solar power (SSP) to fill a widening clean energy supply gap.”
SSP is a clean, viable solution to our world’s growing energy problems. Not limited by weather or geography, SSP solves the intermittency problems of earth-based renewables by providing a reliable and flexible energy source that is available 24/7. The underlying technology components are proven and systems will be deployable within a decade. Solar energy is captured via solar power satellites (known as powersats) and transmitted wirelessly to receiving stations at various points around the globe. Thousands of megawatts can be harnessed and shifted between receiving stations thousands of miles from each other—all in a matter of seconds.
PowerSat Corporation’s first patented technology, BrightStar, allows individual powersats to form a wireless power transmission beam without being physically connected to each other. This “electronic coupling,” conceptually similar to cloud computing, effectively eliminates the need to handle large (gigawatt) levels of power in a single spacecraft. Because of BrightStar, one transmission beam may now come from hundreds of smaller powersats. Another advantage of Brightstar is increased reliability. If any of the individual component satellites fail they can be easily replaced without significantly affecting the performance of the system, thus establishing much greater reliability.
The other technology being patented by PowerSat, Solar Power Orbital Transfer (SPOT) propels a spacecraft to an optimal, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) using electronic thrusters that are powered by the same solar array that is eventually used for wireless power transmission. Until now, all satellites have had to use chemical propulsion or a chemically fueled “space tug” to move from Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which is 300-1,000 miles in altitude to GEO, which is 22,236 miles in altitude.
SPOT technology also decreases the weight of a powersat by 67%, dramatically reducing launch costs, and enabling PowerSat modules to fly on rockets to LEO, deploy their solar powered electronic thrusters and then fly themselves out to GEO. GEO, the orbit for most communications satellites, is optimal because it allows a powersat to harvest the sun’s energy continuously.