$21 Billion Orbiting Solar Array will Beam Electricity to Earth

$21 Billion Orbiting Solar Array
Artist conception of the SSPS (Space solar power system). Image credit: USEF

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Japanese are preparing to develop a two trillion yen (approximately $21 billion USD) space solar project that will beam electricity from space in the form of microwaves or lasers to around 300,000 homes in Japan within three decades.

The project, to be undertaken by a research group from 16 companies including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, aims to spend the next four years developing the technology needed to beam the produced to earth. They expect that as run out, an orbiting in space may be needed to provide a significant source of electricity in the future, according to the Kensuke Kanekiyo, from the Japanese Government's Institute of Energy Economics.

The planned solar station will produce 1 of electricity from its four km2 (approximately 2.5 square miles) array of , which is enough to power just under 300,000 Tokyo homes, at present usage levels. Since the array will be in orbit some 36,000 km (22,500 miles) above the earth's surface, it will be unaffected by weather conditions and will be able to generate power constantly.

The U.S. agency NASA has been investigating the possibilities of a space-based solar system for several decades and has spent around $80 million on the research. They and other government agencies estimate the cost of electricity supplied from an orbiting could be around $1 billion per megawatt, which is too expensive to be commercially viable.

$21 Billion Orbiting Solar Array

The Japanese realize the cost of building the solar station in orbit would be prohibitive at the moment, and the array could not be commercially viable at today's prices. The Japanese consortium therefore has to find ways of drastically reducing the costs. With the launch of a single rocket costing around 10 billion yen, the cost of the space solar station could be as high as two trillion yen, according to Koji Umehara, the Director of the Japanese Space Development and Utilization ministry, making the electricity supplied exorbitantly expensive.

The first step in bringing the plans to fruition will be the launch in around 2015 of a satellite fitted with solar panels that will beam electricity to earth.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to have the orbiting space solar system operational some time in the 2030s.

More information: www.usef.or.jp/english/f3_proj … ct/ssps/f3_ssps.html

© 2009 PhysOrg.com


Explore further

Space-Based Solar Power Coming to California in 2016

Citation: $21 Billion Orbiting Solar Array will Beam Electricity to Earth (2009, September 15) retrieved 16 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2009-09-billion-orbiting-solar-array-electricity.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Sep 15, 2009
That's what I like to see: people with vision, ambition and courage. Crazy as this idea may appear today, how stupid will today's critics appear when they accomplish this, (or something similar as a spin off project).

If they forge a better working relationahip with China in the coming decade, solar power may become available at commercially realistic values to all of us - finally.

Sep 15, 2009
I am tired of the limiting factor being monetary value. We as the human race are capable of such extraordinary things that it's practically blasphemous that we allow such trivial matters to hinder progress in science.

Sep 15, 2009
Umm...I agree with Ray and all. But..Aren't there rocks in space? And giant floating balls of ice? How do you prevent a crash-collision with those? Much less take into account solar storms, micro-meteorites, dust in space, etc. and still make this viable?

Sep 15, 2009
I am tired of the limiting factor being monetary value. We as the human race are capable of such extraordinary things that it's practically blasphemous that we allow such trivial matters to hinder progress in science.


I don't think we're "hindering progress" so much as leveraging our limited resources in the best way we know how. Nobody anywhere can justify $1 Billion per megawatt. It would probably cost less to have a human crank a turbine by hand... this is a big gamble. Even if they get the cost way, way down, how will they fend off the critics that will claim this can be used as a space-based superweapon? Kudo's to Japan for talking the talk, it'll be fun to watch them try to walk the walk

mvg
Sep 15, 2009
If even cell phones are said to cause health problems, what is going to happen when they beam down that much radiation into their collector facility?

Sep 15, 2009
I am tired of the limiting factor being monetary value.


This is evil and stupid; but 1000 characters barely allows me to scratch the surface.

Money is not the limiting factor; money is just an abstraction. The market generates prices for things incorporating the expectations of all market players; this allows efficient use of scarce resources. Without money and markets you have a knowledge problem(even Lenin recognized this when he suggested keeping one small country capitalist to see what prices looked like). Ignoring prices is squandering resources.

What you're suggesting is that prices allow people to spot bad ideas and avoid them; the only way to circumvent this rational behaviour to further your pet projects is to have government expropriate money through taxes and squander the stolen loot on your pet project(e.g. see corn ethanol or the bridge to nowhere for real world examples of this). This is evil.

If YOU want to squander YOUR resources, more power to ya.

Sep 15, 2009
If even cell phones are said to cause health problems[...]


50 years and thousands of studies on everything from radar, microwave ovens, high power radio towers, powerlines, car phones, cell phones, WiFi etc. say otherwise. All it does is dielectric heating; stay out of fields intense enough to overwhelm the self-regulating cooling mechanisms of blood circulation and sweating and you'll be fine.

what is going to happen when they beam down that much radiation into their collector facility?


The collector is tens of square kilometers at 2.4 GHz because of diffraction; it's going to be a lot less intense than sun-light.

Sep 15, 2009
Build the space elevator first, then we'll have a physical connection to a power generator we can stick out in space.

Sep 15, 2009
I largely agree with your statement about the purpose of money Soylent. It is merely a way of allocating non-infinite resources, and nothing more.

However, I would disagree with your implied assertion that private investment is the only type of investment that is worthwhile. Private investment is by its very nature short-term, and cannot be used to fund long-term projects.

IE, no private corporation will ever fund research into FTL, because commercialization of that research is too far into the future to have a decent return on investment (if it proves to be possible at all). But because no corporation will fund the pre-commercialization base research, that research will never get done, so we'll never get to the point where commercialization is possible. It's a catch-22 situation. That's the reason why government funded *basic* research should exist: to fill that unfortunate gap in corporate and private research that would otherwise stifle the economy.

Sep 15, 2009
A space fountain should be on the list before or during SPSS and elevator construction. Also i'd rather see nuclear resonance technologies applied than inefficient panellings, maybe some xenon-tmae nematic liquid crystal capacitor hybrids or something.

Sep 15, 2009
The key to reducing costs is to manufacture the solar panels on the Moon and use something like a electric rail gun to launch them from there. The issue then become how many SPS's manufactured this way (and other ways to exploit the Moon) will be necessary to off-set the costs of building the infrastructure required to manufacture and launch panels from the Moon?

Sep 15, 2009
The key to reducing costs is to manufacture the solar panels on the Moon and use something like a electric rail gun to launch them from there.


Really??? Can you expand on how you think this would make it more economical?

RFC
Sep 15, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 15, 2009
I am tired of the limiting factor being monetary value. We as the human race are capable of such extraordinary things that it's practically blasphemous that we allow such trivial matters to hinder progress in science.


You're right, did anyone ever think that having a solar array in place would be a huge advantage by the time it is built? Once solar panels are more efficient the procedures to make this cost friendly will be like changing the oil instead of building a new car. What is also disappointing is that there is not enough "money" to fund the research on materials necessary to stabilize a fusion reactor plant.

Sep 15, 2009
This is so silly. Japan has a great deal of unexploited geothermal energy potential that the $21 billion spend on geothermal projects could probably produce at least ten times as much electricity as this inane space-based scheme proposes.

Sep 15, 2009
You didnt see the one for California in the Related Stories box? --->


And in that article on the California project, they state: "According to Solaren, the system could generate 1.2 to 4.8 gigawatts of power at a price comparable to that of other renewable energy sources."

Do we have some super-secret method of creating the Orbiting Solar Array? Are the Japanese not nearly as intelligent as the rest of the world gives them credit for? Or is that company, Solaren, blatantly lying ("overestimating") the potential? I vote for the latter

Sep 15, 2009
There is an urgent situation on earth now; the greenhouse effect has been underestimated by half according to reliable scientists. The cost of a solar power satellite will build 20-30 solar thermal power plants. Its wasting precious time on money to build space based power-sats.

Sep 15, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 15, 2009
Space elevators are too far into the future, but a hypersonic "skyhook" would be doable with materials with twice the tensile strength of kevlar or spectra. The example I found in an article in a magazine 20 years ago was based on a cable orbiting with the lower end just outside the atmosphere at 5.4 km/s (just 5 km/s relative to the ground due to the rotation of the Earth). This would make SSTO launch vehicles realistic without the need for exotic new alloys.
(Personally, I think better drilling technologies will make geothermal energy the best rival to land-based solar energy)

Sep 15, 2009
Its not the production of energy, its the transmission of energy to the user that cost. Cant you people understand this.

Sep 16, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 16, 2009
Can you say oversized magnifying glass!! And we're the ants. What's gonna stop Japan or one of those controling companies to focus that beam over a city and cook everyone alive. Far better than a nuke, no radiation. There is more than enough power options to research here on earth - geothermal, fusion, magnetism, all could use that money to produce power for millions rather than only a measly 300 000. If it's more to do with space research, how about they design and build that cable based space elevator instead.

Sep 16, 2009
Space junk is a serious problem for space missions. Mark my words... space debris is gonna tear this thing apart.

Their money would be much better spent on other energy production methods such as geothermal and wave.

Ant
Sep 16, 2009
Here we go again
you cannot beam electricity anywhere electricity has to be conducted by a looped flow and return system. it could possible be changed into some sort of carrier but as electricity it would need a pair of cables from the orbiting device to a point on earth, which is practically impossible.

Sep 16, 2009
One point I think we're missing is the fact that solar energy is, for all intensive purposes, unlimited. The energy is being expended by the sun whether we capture and utilize it or not. Every second, more power is being released by the sun than we as a species have used in our entire history. What was the number, something like 800 billion megawatts?

Ant
Sep 16, 2009
hi otto1923
someone suggested your argument in a response to a previous article. From my reading of his work tesla did not appreciate that the Earth also acts as a conductor. If you were to stand on a tiled bathroom floor without any insulation between your feet and the floor and touch a live source you would understand this in an instance. The projections through air that tesla performed used the ground as a return. What electrons do is not important. Electrical flow possibility is exactly what this article considers. As suggested the electricity could be converted to a microwave or laser then reconverted at ground but the losses in two conversions would outway the advantage of having the detector in space.

Ant
Sep 17, 2009
Hi all Dont Know if anyone is still reading this article posts but let me add a final warning:
As I previously said the energy created could be converted we assume to a laser or Microwave transmission. What either of these solutions would provide is a potential space weapon. Either of these could be used to threaten, blackmail or fry members of the human race. Imagine a terrorist group gaining control of such a device, a computer and transmitter is probably all it would take. We should NOT allow anyone to put devices with alternative potential into space. Please.

Sep 17, 2009
I'll note that you don't *have* to have a loop for electrical flow, that just makes things a lot simpler, easier, and more efficient. If you turn something into a plasma and then gather all the electrons from that plasma, you can do whatever you want with them (ie, fire them off into space as a Charged Particle Weapon). That would of course be an incredibly impractical way to transfer usable electricity around:P.

Sep 18, 2009
Ther problem here is that by the time the panel system is ready to launch, solar technology will have left it in the dust. Articles here talk about solar paint and increasing efficiency by factors of 5 or 10 in a short time. This thing will be obsolete before it can be packed into a crate and launched.

Self-repairing nano panels are needed before this kind of space floater concept is really viable.

Sep 19, 2009
The solution to the energy issue is the solution to the number two killer, obesity. The government should issue out exercise bikes and stepper machines to every household and connect to the grid via low voltage trickle in-120 volt out parallel capacitors. People will loose weight while providing energy to the grid and cleaning the air. This will also reduce healthcare costs and food consumption which all utilize energy. The name of this program should be "ThinEnergy".

Sep 19, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 20, 2009
Seems like it would be a lot more sensible, cost effective and far less risky to focus on making cheaper, more efficient solar panels and blanketing the rooftops of entire cities with them.

Sep 20, 2009
Quite weird idea to collect solar energy in space and transfer via microwave or laser to earth with the risk to burn people!

The most obvious solution is to build solar panels on top of roofs of each house, having a distributed solution with all the advantages that distributed solutions have, e.g. internet!

Sep 20, 2009
Why not just float up balloons with solar panels above the cloud cover and beam down the energy from there?

Sep 20, 2009
Why not just float up balloons with solar panels above the cloud cover and beam down the energy from there?
Alternatively the balloon could be tethered to the ground and the electricity could be conducted down the tethering wire.

Sep 20, 2009
Every one just needs to get ready for an energy war. The industrial revolution should never have happened. In just 100 years man has gone buck wild with energy. Putting solar panels in space is a mathematically a dump idea. First you have to deal with the cost of getting the pannels in space, then the fact you are collecting energy to transmit it will always produce a lower net energy and finally the micrometeorites will damage the lenses so that maximum sun focus is reduced. Just put them on the roof of the house and be satisfied. Sometimes I think that engineers create things that will keep them employed for the long term. Is this why cancer and diabetes still exist (acidic body and diet). Research is more profitable than the one time cure which is prevention. Let us prevent these off the wall ideas from being realized. We need the space elevator though to take the glory away from astronauts.

Sep 20, 2009
The inverse square law will make the power from the satellite useless. Need another renewable energy.

Hydrogen is being pushed by DOE and one company says it has solved the hydrogen production problem.

They propose using sea water and wind energy to make unlimited amounts of energy forever that is 100% green and renewable !!

Mazda is using hydrogen just like gasoline in their new car with 4 times the gas mileage.


Sep 20, 2009
Does every solar power venture have to involve solar panels? I've seen time and again articles and research showing focused thermal capture to be more efficient. Instead of trying to manufacture an acreage of silicon wafers why not just a large thin sheet of metal to create a mirror pointing at a collector? In space the problem of tracking the sun wouldn't even exist, and everything about the manufacturing would be so much more economical.

Ulg
Sep 20, 2009
21 billion for 1.3 million hp platform of 24/7 energy does not sound bad at all, but what would the fees be to keep it operational and what is the expected lifetime?

Sep 20, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 20, 2009
Looks like the Japanese will get some good, practical experience toward developing a future space-based weapons platforms, too. Kudos. For now, of course, it's purely a civilian energy project. Wait, where have I heard this before...

Sep 21, 2009
Sunstroke spells out quite clearly that such a space solar power station employing high-intensity microwave beams will be used as a devastating multi-pronged weapon: it can supply electricity to the military, be used to fry enemy ground troops, aircraft, ocean-going vessels, and also be used to disrupt enemy communications as well as destroy their agricultural capabilities. All in the guise of being a "purely civilian alternative energy project". Pure Genius!


One word... F.. I.. C.. T.. I.. O.. N...

What a bunch of whining babies you're all becoming.

"Wha! It could be a weapon"
"Wha! It would never work"
"Wha! Industry was a bad idea and we should Leap Backwards 200 years"

You all make me sick!


Sep 21, 2009
The article and whole discussion is funny in a semi-tragical sense to me.

First of all everyone should really stop worrying about space weapons, we have enough destructive potential already and hell, we're doing a pretty good job at killing our fellow man and ourselves as it is now. At 21 billion a pop, you could probably build yourself a bunch of nukes and get the job done, especially since noone really has defensive capability against those yet.

Second of all, I'll join the camp that believes that we should be drilling down rather than going up. The Earth has tremendous geo-thermal potential which is for our purposes very comparable to the energy we can harvest from the Sun, and a combination of the two would probably service our needs for a long long time.


Sep 21, 2009
Third of all and saddest of all, without discarding the importance of scientific progress, we seem to be so engaged in the race to become the uber-human beings we read of in the sci-fi books that we are forgetting that being uber-human involved, first of all, to be human.

A large part of our popoulation is deeply submerged in poverty. While parts of the western world thrive and drive hybrid cars and put solar arrays into space, these people can hardly afford food, in the best cases, and have to drink muddy infested water in the worst.

Even if you gave them clean energy they would have nothing to do with it.

Cleaning up our act is good, but shouldn't we also be researching more proper ways to develop the dirt poor countries of our world, ways to get them water and food? Maybe if we spent more time on selecting reasearch projects more carefully there would be some coins left over for them.


Nuclear power stations, which avoid use of evil fossil fuels, are apparently a far too complicated alternative.

fossil fuel: solar derivative power.

d'oh

Sep 22, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 22, 2009
The industrial revolution should never have happened.... Is this why cancer and diabetes still exist (acidic body and diet).... Let us prevent these off the wall ideas from being realized. We need the space elevator though to take the glory away from astronauts.


Wow, what is a Luddite (a paranoid one at that) doing posting comments on the web?

Sep 22, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 22, 2009
Great! Just what we need more waves and beams bombarding us and the planet. I guess it's a good thing the waves are invisible to us, otherwise we'd probably not be able to see anything else.


Sep 23, 2009
I have posted this on other forums. I hope someone can tell me what I am missing.

The path loss for something like this using microwave is enormous. At 1GHz, there is 185dB of attenuation from geosync to the ground. At 10GHz, that's 204dB of attenuation. At 100GHz that's 224dB of attenuation.

To recover 1/2 the power with a 100% efficient dish antenna @ 1GHz, it's diameter would be 120,218 Kilometers. (or two dish antennas, one at the generator and one on earth 3,388 Kilometers in diameter)

I just don't see how this can be freezable. Is there something wrong with my math?

Sep 23, 2009
er, make that 3.388 Kilometers in diameter for the two smaller dishes.

Sep 24, 2009
Zugger, "Sunstroke" is a work of fiction. I appreciate that you like the book and thought the technological premise seemed realistic, but there's likely a great deal of "artistic liscense" going on there. Maybe you can find REAL research to use as backing to your arguments.

Also, since the Physorg staff pulled my cleverness (twice!) because it was "pointless verbage", I'm adding it here where it will be safe, piggybacked on my mild criticism, above. Here it is... "thin energy" would be more cleverly worded as "thinergy". Wow, jumping thru these hoops sucked what little funniness there was right out of this!

Oct 01, 2009
Here's a concept... build the space elevator, build a network of space-based power platforms, beam that energy to collectors on the elevator's anchor, and beam the energy down a shielded conduit running down to the ground.

Oct 05, 2009
Darn you Ricochet for forcing me to agree with Zuggerjack on something. :) Specifically, any cable deployed of that length, especially when we start making it multipurpose - a climbing line AND a shielded power line) - would have to be strong enough to not snap under it's own considerable weight. Carbon nanotubes seems the way to go currently. While its convenient to run the power thru the cable, it could also be run from the same 2 stations, but parallel to the cable. That whould eliminate the need to extra weight on the cable and still allow the dual use of the airspace and the stations.

Oct 08, 2009
Regarding the risk of the beam wandering away from the receiving station, it wouldn't be that difficult to have a couple targeting lasers on the satellite, so that if it goes off the mark it could adjust its aim and relative position, or shut down the beam entirely, if necessary. More concerning to me would be the risk of oscillation on the cable crawler from the effect of wind or satellite positional adjustment - you would REALLY want to not swing into the path of that beam, as you sloooowly crawled your way up or down the cable, and the possibility of stressing the cable to its breaking point during a oscillation event where it feeds upon itself are real.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more