Space Based Solar Power: Like Terrestrial Solar, but More Expensive

Essay by Eric Worrall

“… we think we can build and commission a 2GW power station every year. …”

Space-based solar power: How it works, and why it’s being considered now

ABC Science / By technology reporter James Purtill

It’s an idea that sprang from mid-century science fiction and was being seriously considered in the 1970s, in the golden years of space flight.

Key points:

  • Space-based solar power involves beaming clean energy to Earth from orbital solar farms
  • If it works, it could supply non-intermittent renewable electricity 
  • But the technology is unproven and may end up costing more than projected

Space-based solar power (SBSP) was eventually dismissed as too expensive, and consigned to the attic of Space Age fantasies, along with lunar bases and ray guns.

Now, it’s back. Space agencies are returning to the idea of constructing enormous orbital arrays of solar panels, then beaming the power to Earth via microwaves.

Putting solar panels in space may seem unnecessary (when there’s still room on our roofs), but this vision of the future has powerful backers.

Millions of dollars are being ploughed into the concept of vast photovoltaic “islands in the sky”.

Martin Soltau is an analyst at Frazer-Nash Consultancy and co-chair of the UK’s Space Energy Initiative, which is a consortium of companies, universities and government helping to develop SBSP.

solar power station at the “gigawatt scale” is achievable within 12 years, he says.

After that … we think we can build and commission a 2GW power station every year.

A cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the ESA calculated the average cost of electricity generation by SPSP over the lifetime of a generator unit, including construction, maintenance and decommissioning.

It arrived at a figure of 0.038-0.106 euros per kilowatt-hour by 2045 ($0.059-$0.16 per kWh).

By comparison, Dr White says, ground-based solar has a cost of around 0.03 euros per kWh — and falling.

The figure doesn’t take into account the need for storage, but “the cost of storage is also coming down rapidly.”

Read more:

Dr. White’s squirming over the cost of terrestrial solar + energy storage is amusing.

The fact space based solar is apparently being seriously considered, and the emphasis on the fact space based solar is not weather dependent, in my opinion is a rare glimpse of the dire state of the terrestrial green energy push.

Even some of our more numerically challenged green politicians are starting to realise that renewables are more hype than potential, that the intermittency and unreliability of terrestrial renewable energy is a showstopper.

Of course, space based solar is not without its problems. Space experiences its own “weather”, in the form of solar storms, blasts of radiation which can damage fragile electronics.

Low Earth orbit is suffused with corrosive monatomic oxygen blasted off the top of the Earth’s atmosphere by solar radiation. Chemical erosion may be less of an issue if lots of money is spent to boost the solar power satellites into geostationary orbits, but the radiation can be worse in higher orbits. Geostationary orbit (22,236 miles) is inside the Van Allen radiation belt (400-36,040 miles), a region of space where the Earth’s magnetic field traps energetic, electrically charged radiation which can wreak havoc on sensitive electronics.

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December 20, 2022 10:04 am

The longest extension cord I own is only 100 feet long. Oh no, sol for me!!


Tony Sullivan
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 20, 2022 11:42 am

Does this also mean I can’t charge my EV by running an extension cord out the window of my apartment on the 2nd floor? /sarc

Bryan A
Reply to  Tony Sullivan
December 20, 2022 4:55 pm


Dave Fair
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 20, 2022 9:05 pm


Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 21, 2022 10:27 am

I need 10 gauge wire to run 40A @ 120VAC (4800W) 100 feet.
How big of a wire do they need to run 2GW 250+ miles?

Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 21, 2022 2:21 pm

All you would need is a EV drone with a MW receiver and transmitter to intercept the beam and re-beam it to your EV MW receiver and charge up. Or just go to the giant and charge up for free with out all of the fuss.

Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 21, 2022 8:00 pm

If you had an extension cord that long, you would not need the satellite. It would generate power from the magnetic fields as it whipped through them.

Reply to  g3ellis
December 22, 2022 6:09 pm

Ain’t that the truth!

Tom Halla
December 20, 2022 10:08 am

Well, space based solar is more practical technology than land based solar and storage, but that is not saying very much.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 20, 2022 11:48 am

It’s more practical for satellites and space stations. It is not more practical for sending power to the ground. These satellites are of no use when they are over water, and they will be over water most of the time.

Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 12:24 pm

Then they will design a laser relay for power (think Starlink over ocean but for power).

Bryan A
Reply to  niceguy12345
December 20, 2022 12:33 pm

And is prone to micrometetor damage from seasonal meteor showers. JWST has already had a mirror damaged

Reply to  niceguy12345
December 20, 2022 3:31 pm

Do you have any idea first off, how many of these “relay” satellites would be needed and how expensive each of them would be?
First off they have to not just withstand but capture all of the power of a 2GW laser. Then they need to convert 2GW of power into a microwave beam and accurately send it earthward.

Solving the problem of what to do while the power satellites are over the ocean could easily end up being many times more costly than the power satellites themselves.

A bad idea, made even worse.
A common story when trying to get renewable energy to work.

Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 5:15 pm

“how expensive each of them would be?”

Making a silly, costly, unworkable idea even more unworkable and uneconomical is trendy.

F.ex. take renewable energy (like wind, or solar) => it’s intermittent => so let’s invest in storage.

Storage = make H2 (electrolysis), sometimes make methane (methanation), make electricity from H2 or methane.

The MYRTE project = Mission hydrogène renouvelable pour l’intégration au réseau électrique:

Or, les 24 millions d’euros engloutis jusqu’à présent dans cette « plateforme MYRTE » conduisent à produire une électricité coûtant environ… 220 c€/kWh ! (Voir annexe technique). Ce coût de production (sans les taxes) représente… plus de 50 fois le prix du marché actuel ou celui de l’électricité vendue par EDF à ses concurrents !

So the French scientists managed to invent a tool to make electricity at 50 times the usual price… because muh storage of intermittent renewable energy.

Slogan: we know how to store energy.
Reality: there is a test project to store a small amount of energy at an insane price.

Last edited 1 month ago by niceguy12345
old cocky
Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 1:37 pm

They pretty much need to be geostationary.

Reply to  old cocky
December 20, 2022 3:34 pm

At that distance, the beam will be so wide by the time it reaches the Earth, that it will be very expensive to collect enough of it to make the effort worthwhile.

Reply to  MarkW
December 21, 2022 10:39 am

At that distance, the beam will be so wide

Just set up a field of solar panels to capture the power in the beam 🙂

(I probably shouldn’t give them ideas)

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  old cocky
December 21, 2022 4:49 am

Which would probably require they use all the energy they use and then some.

I guess they could just put some ROCKET FUEL boosters on them…D’oh!

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 4:56 pm

A solar power satellite in geosynchronous orbit would be over its ground receiver station 24/7/365, and deliver uninterrupted power the whole time (with rare, brief and predictable eclipse events). Every geosynchronous communication satellite is solar powered, and they have a lifetime of 20 to 25 years. These days, the life limit isn’t on the performance of the solar panels, the electronics, or even station keeping propellant. It is more dependent on changes in communication technology on the ground (e.g. the shift from C-band to Ku-band carrier frequencies, and analog to digital channels, etc). Geosynchronous solar power satellites would provide stable, reliable baseload power continuously, and would need no storage infrastructure.

The biggest problem with space solar power as currently conceived is, in fact, the land area required to accomodate microwave receiving rectennas (laser is impractical due to clouds and other atmospherics). The power per unit area of the microwaves has to be within acceptable biological limits, and despite decades of research, these are still controversial. At first blush, limiting the power density to no more than that of solar insolation might seem a reasonable limit. Even at that, however, you’d be talking about a vast land area, and a flyover keepout zone above it. If such contiguous land could be had, we would then be faced with restructuring the entire electric grid to take from that source, and deliver it across an entire continent.

Beaming power from a solar power satellite via microwaves might seem like the most economical way to proceed, especially in light of the history of commercial space economics. For most of the space age, commercial space economics has been dominated by communication markets. The cost of putting a pound of payload into space is in the thousands of dollars per pound – but electromagnetic radiation doesn’t weigh anything. We can send all we want into space, and have it delivered anywhere on Earth with only the initial cost of the relay satellite and ground stations, and their operating costs.

I think the idea of beaming power isn’t a good solution to the “last mile (or 23,500 mile) problem.” I have a very different approach under development, one that is more consistent with our existing energy infrastructure. But I wouldn’t rule out space solar power under any circumstances.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
December 21, 2022 8:17 am

I’d rule out solar, because it’s still low density and you’re still using fossil fuels to produce all the infrastructure for it, from panels to bases to additional T&D lines (not to mention the herd of elephants in the room – storage).

Plus lots of toxic waste.

Just do nuclear. Much better quality power, much less land needed, less waste especially when reprocessing the fuel rods.

Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 9:37 pm

They are supposed to be placed in geosynchronous orbits, not low, so they’ll be over their customers. The power beamed down will be steady and constant, not needing to track or switch antennas – it’s not StarLink.

Rick C
Reply to  MarkW
December 21, 2022 10:42 am

Let’s imagine a 2GW microwave beam from space to a receiving station on earth. What could possibly go wrong? The beam would be the most powerful energy weapon ever other than nuclear bombs. Anything passing through the beam (birds, airplanes, clouds) would be instantly vaporized. Anyone who had control of where the beam was aimed could rule the world a la James Bond super villains.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 20, 2022 6:26 pm

A 2Gw space laser? What could possibly go wrong?

Just don’t call it a weapon … someone might use it as such.

Reply to  JamesB_684
December 20, 2022 10:23 pm

The 2 gigawatts here can be compared to high power industrial lasers for cutting steel that typically operate in the kilowatt range, one millionth of the above. Geoff S

Reply to  JamesB_684
December 21, 2022 4:35 am

Indeed – that’s what techno-utopian idiots can’t understand. 2 GW power beam = 2 GW laser. Space = orbital = at least hemispheric targeting range. No nation on earth will stand for even one of these, much less the hundreds and thousands needed to replace terrestrial power generation.

B Zipperer
Reply to  JamesB_684
December 21, 2022 5:47 am

Wasn’t that the plot of one of the (bad) James Bond movies?
IIRC “Diamonds are Forever”

And btw the recent laser fusion experiment used ~2MJ (total) laser to release
~3MJ of fusion energy, however it took ~300MJ to power the laser.
1 Watt = 1 Joule/sec

John Hultquist
December 20, 2022 10:17 am

 The solar energy collected by the satellites would be converted into microwaves and beamed to “rectifying antennas” or “rectennas” on Earth, which would, in turn, convert them to electricity.
This is how the “energy” reaches Earth. It would not be a bright beam from a mirror.
The look changes, but all the rest is kooky.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  John Hultquist
December 20, 2022 11:42 am

What happens to anything that happens to cross the path of those microwaves? A plan, a bird, whatever.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 20, 2022 3:35 pm

Pretty much nothing, the design for them is to have the beam spread out over a large area by the time it reaches the ground.

Last edited 1 month ago by MarkW
Reply to  MarkW
December 21, 2022 8:07 am

The key concept for an industrial laser to cut steel and many other uses is focus the beam into a tiny cross section. The smaller the beam radius, the better the cut. Without this key concept you do not have much from your pricey laser.
You are talking of a sort of opposite concept, using poor focus to avoid local heating of the earth surface by the beam from space, be it laser or microwave.
Sounds contrary. Geoff S

Reply to  John Hultquist
December 20, 2022 11:50 am

Each “rectenna” could be cheap, however you are going to need billions of them. Plus the wiring and electronics necessary to concentrate all of that power into usable amounts.

Reply to  MarkW
December 21, 2022 8:15 am

Ho hum, need to find ten times more big copper deposits each year than present rates, to handle all this unusual electricity generation.
I have hands on experience finding a few such new copper deposits hidden below featureless flat wheat fields. It is hard, exacting scientific work You cannot wish a new mine into existence.You cannot ramp up the discovery rate ten-fold overnight. There are few experienced hard scientists any more. Geoff S

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  MarkW
December 21, 2022 8:22 am

And once again, nobody is bothering to consider, even for a moment, the effect on climate, weather, ecosystems, etc. of having all that solar energy intercepted before it enters the atmosphere. And of all those shadows cast by the number needed, assuming you could find the resources for the serial replacements needed.

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
December 21, 2022 10:49 am

of having all that solar energy intercepted before it enters the atmosphere

I’m curious what the effect would be of 2GW of energy being beamed to a rather spread out reciever on earth. Pretty sure that would heat the atmosphere in the area, right? I don’t know by how much, but if enough, wouldn’t it cause a permanent low-pressure zone? Which seems to me it would cause a permanent storm around the receiver.

Hey, even more problems to blame on climate change!

Reply to  John Hultquist
December 20, 2022 2:43 pm

It would be simpler to use the microwave beam to evaporate sea water from a refillable reservoir and capture the steam to run turbines. Could also do double duty as a desalination plant.

Reply to  drednicolson
December 20, 2022 3:37 pm

If you want to capture the steam in order to do useful work, you will have to boil the water in an enclosed container. The container would also need to be transparent to microwaves, which leaves out any form of metal.

Reply to  John Hultquist
December 20, 2022 10:16 pm

“rectifying antennas” or “rectennas”

It sounds to me like they want to insert an antenna into each and every one of us.

I think “rectalennas” is the term they’re searching for.

December 20, 2022 10:25 am

I read a book by T A Heppenheimer called “Toward Distant Suns “ 1979
Dealt with fusion, breeder reactors , space based solar arrays, mining the moon, building Stanford toruses for living and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember
Nothing was done

abolition man
Reply to  MikeSexton
December 20, 2022 11:27 am

Further exploration of space, habitats on the Moon and Mars, and later the moons of Jupiter or Saturn; these are some of the advances we forfeit to pursue the Green Raw Deal!

Reply to  MikeSexton
December 20, 2022 11:37 am

The Light Water Breeder Reactor was built and successfully tested in the 1970’s, before Heppenheimer’s book was published.

Reply to  Denis
December 20, 2022 5:13 pm

I should have excluded the breeder from not being done

December 20, 2022 10:26 am

Most of humanity doesn’t have enough money to buy curtains for their house windows. So taxing them enough to to put sunlight absorbers in space isn’t going to happen…

Reply to  DMacKenzie
December 20, 2022 11:39 am

Windows! Such luxury.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
December 20, 2022 9:43 pm

They get taxed to death to pay for bird choppers and to subsidize electric luxury cars, so why not?

R Taylor
December 20, 2022 10:47 am

I know birds (etc.) don’t matter, but what would happen to a flock that flies through a 2 GW beam?

Reply to  R Taylor
December 20, 2022 10:53 am

Instant crispy duck

Reply to  strativarius
December 20, 2022 11:41 am

Mr. Wang says they be frying.

Don Perry
Reply to  R Taylor
December 20, 2022 10:59 am

Or a fully-loaded passenger jet!!

Reply to  R Taylor
December 20, 2022 11:51 am

Absolutely nothing. That 2GW is spread out over several square miles.

Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 2:12 pm

Would this use up more or less land and material resources than the total wind/solar (on earth) delusion?

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 2:36 pm

Does that mean several square miles (several = 3 to 5) of receivers?

That’s about 200W per square metre, it would be cheaper covering the area in Solar PV.
Or you could just use a huge mirror and double the amount of sunlight and therefore the output of the Solar PV

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
December 20, 2022 5:30 pm

When there is good sunlight on those several square miles.

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
December 20, 2022 9:46 pm

You could push it to 1000W/m2, ~same as sunlight, but microwaves ate easier to convert back to electricity (80% the last time I looked) and it would be ON 24/7/365, even through clouds.

Last edited 1 month ago by PCman999
Reply to  R Taylor
December 20, 2022 2:10 pm

Peter Kalmus wasn’t fantasying about lizards frying on rocks and birds dropping dead out of the sky, he was observing one of the quantum reality streams where spaced based solar power is accomplished

Chris Foskett
December 20, 2022 10:51 am

At 23,000 miles above the ground based collector, the power transmission beam is going to be around 70 metres in diameter. There is also going to be the attendant problem of satellite station keeping to stop the beam wandering and destroying the area surrounding the collector.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Chris Foskett
December 20, 2022 11:08 am

Or, we could point them at Chinese Virus Research Labs.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Chris Foskett
December 20, 2022 11:43 am

I suppose it could be confiscated for military purposes?

Reply to  Chris Foskett
December 20, 2022 3:14 pm

There will not be a rectenna on every rooftop – the beam is, as you rightly point out, quite concentrated. I would be concerned about the ability to point such a concentrated beam incredibly accurately to avoid it “wandering and destroying the area surrounding the collector”

Reply to  Chris Foskett
December 23, 2022 12:17 pm

Station keeping is not trivial, and more so if the collector is of a significant size. It would act as a solar sail.

December 20, 2022 10:52 am

“may end up costing more than projected”

No kidding. Artemis 1 alone cost $4 billion and Artemis 2 is two years off.

Occupy Mars!

Frank from NoVA
December 20, 2022 10:55 am

Any glitch in where they’re pointing the energy beam potentially turns any ‘space based solar platform’ into a Death Star.

Reply to  Frank from NoVA
December 20, 2022 12:42 pm

Don’t tell Marjorie Taylor Greene!

(The anti-Semitism angle is just silly BTW. Unless they are telling us that some people are above the reach of free speech.)

Ed Zuiderwijk
December 20, 2022 11:15 am

Don’t live near the ground station for those 2G Watts beamed down. A little nudge on the satellite and you are cooked like a turkey at Christmas.

abolition man
December 20, 2022 11:17 am

“Space experiences it’s own “weather,”…
Are you SURE it isn’t climate!? /snarc
It seems that the purveyors of climate porn are trying to push their works of fiction into every other genre. The mind virus is strong in these ones!

December 20, 2022 11:17 am

Whatever Can Happen, Will happen. Murphy’s Law

A quick trip down causality lane and we find this space-based solar array beaming the power down to the Earth and missing the receiving station and burning down a nearby town.

Reply to  Neo
December 20, 2022 11:54 am

Murphy was a delusional optimist – Sodd’s Law

Dave Fair
Reply to  alastairgray29yahoocom
December 20, 2022 9:17 pm

Murphy didn’t write Murphy’s Law. It was written by another man with the name of Murphy.

December 20, 2022 11:26 am

we think we can build and commission a 2GW power station every year. 

Is that the output power at the ground station…Suure it is…

 the fact space based solar is not weather dependent, 

What about heavy winter cloud cover…

There were some very cool artists in the 70’s whipping up nifty renderings of 6 mile diameter orbital space stations, beaming microwave power to the earth, in a weak beam path as to not fry passigners in jets…

Nothing new under the sun…heh

Curious George
Reply to  upcountrywater
December 20, 2022 3:07 pm

We can build it, even price it. But we have no idea how to make it work 🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by Curious George
December 20, 2022 11:31 am

but….Elon Musk said look at that big ol’ fusion furnace up there in the sky….let’s use it more.

December 20, 2022 11:39 am

Where does this myth, that the cost of solar power is falling, come from?
Ditto the claim that the price of “storage” is falling.
Batteries are the only viable form of storage, and the cost of them has been rising.

Last edited 1 month ago by MarkW
Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 12:44 pm

Pumping stations for dams are the only viable form of storage, and the empty places to put them are not multiplying.

Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 9:50 pm

Lithium futures are up.

December 20, 2022 11:46 am

Satellite solar may not be weather dependent, however it is orbit dependent.

Until you can build enough satellites that there will always be a satellite overhead, you will only get power from these satellites for a few minutes, every couple of hours.

The other thing is that around 3/4ths of the Earth is covered by water, which means that regardless of how many satellites you build, each one will be unusable 3/4ths of the time.

Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 2:59 pm

Instead of land-based rectifiers, it’d be simpler to use the microwaves directly to evaporate sea water, in a refillable reservoir where the steam can be captured to run turbines. The hot salts left behind could produce more steam as the reservoir refills until the next satellite is in position to repeat the process.

Reply to  drednicolson
December 20, 2022 3:43 pm

If you boil water in an open reservoir the steam escapes, it would be impossible to capture it in order to use it to do work.
The only way to get steam to do work, is to boil the water in a closed container.
For this contraption to work, the container would have to be transparent to micro waves, which rules out any container made out of metal.

Reply to  MarkW
December 20, 2022 9:51 pm

Ahem, geosynchronous orbits for solar power satellites. Just like communication satellites.

Andy Pattullo
December 20, 2022 11:51 am

More proof that a large proportion of academia and policy wonks live entirely in a world of fantasy. Let’s set them all free in the wilderness where fossil fuels and cell phones are hard to come by and let them solve some real problems or else test Darwins theory of natural selection.

abolition man
Reply to  Andy Pattullo
December 20, 2022 2:27 pm

Give them spears, or a bow and arrows, then set them down on Svalbard or along Hudson Bay! I’ll bet they wouldn’t write many stories about the disappearing polar bears.
Maybe they can come up with helpful hints on how Eskimos or Inuits can become more carbon neutral!

Andy Pattullo
Reply to  abolition man
December 20, 2022 3:12 pm

The whole of of them would become carbon neutral after a brief period of decomposition. Nature collects all debts.

December 20, 2022 12:15 pm

They are trying so desperately to get this s**t to work, aren’t they? “Anything but fossil fuels and nuclear power! ANYTHING!” How long before they literally believe in faerie dust?

December 20, 2022 12:23 pm

Here Marjorie Taylor Greene says the deadly California wildfires may have been caused by lasers from space – tied to the Pacific Gas & Electric Company

John Pickens
Reply to  niceguy12345
December 20, 2022 7:01 pm

Talk about crazy conspiracy theories, there’s actually an entire industry centered around the theory that Solar PV, Wind Turbines, and Lithium Batteries can be combined to supply a net positive energy balance while at the same time reducing CO2 emissions. It takes a lot of conspirators to come up with a theory as insane and easily refuted as that!

Reply to  John Pickens
December 21, 2022 4:17 pm

The silliest theory evah is that there exist such thing as renewable energy, or unlimited energy, or God given, and that you have to pay for it.

December 20, 2022 12:25 pm

Oh boy! These guys are just nuts. Experimentation on a global scale. What could possibly go wrong?

You are catching solar energy that normally would by-pass the earth Some might be energy that would normally hit the earth as sunlight anyway and that portion that would normally hit the earth anyway wouldn’t matter. (Unless the satellite fell on you.) But some of that energy would probably be energy that would normally whiz right past the earth. The sun light that would normally harmlessly whiz right past the earth but that you are now converting to microwaves and re-directing to the ground is going to affect the earth’s thermal balance. Wouldn’t it be ironic if these nut cases in their Quixotic quest to prevent a fictitious global warming from carbon dioxide were to cause a real global warming by adding extra energy to the earth? I suppose you could get away with a few such collectors without doing too much heating but what if you put up a few thousand of these collectors? Say five thousand of them each the size of a football field? Yikes!

Second, microwaves are absorbed by water. That’s why you don’t put your cat in the microwave oven. A portion of that microwave beam that you beam to the ground is going to be absorbed by atmospheric moisture. I have no idea what percent of the beam will be absorbed by the atmosphere before it reaches the ground. But isn’t that going to create an atmospheric hot spot? Wouldn’t a column of hot air in the atmosphere throw off the winds and disrupt normal weather patterns? Wouldn’t it melt ice crystals in clouds and cause rain?

Anyway the whole thing is a dumb idea creating expensive electricity and with possible unforeseen consequences. But then the people who believe in global warming are dumb people. Never underestimate the power of a big mouth dumb person with a cause and a megaphone. Wouldn’t it make more sense just to build nuclear fission plants or just to forget the whole thing and go back to burning our five hundred year reserves of coal?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Marty
December 21, 2022 10:38 am

Clearly, that’s their plan. That’s what they started with – create an atmospheric “hot spot” which can then be blamed on…CO2!

Since, you know, CO2 is never going to create one…

CD in Wisconsin
December 20, 2022 12:44 pm

Space agencies are returning to the idea of constructing enormous orbital arrays of solar panels, then beaming the power to Earth via microwaves.


These big-league daydreamers still won’t address the toxic waste issue that solar panels leave behind, regardless of whether it is on Earth or in space….

The solar panel toxic waste problem – CFACT

“Solar panels generate 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than nuclear power plants. They also contain lead, cadmium, and other toxic (even carcinogenic) chemicals that cannot be removed without breaking apart the entire panel.”


If the above CFACT quote is even partly true, it is big-time B.S. to call solar energy green. 
The dirty little secrets of the “clean energy” movement that they somehow manage to keep secret from the masses.

December 20, 2022 1:09 pm

Any analysis on the additional energy input to the world ? Seems to create more issues than what it intend to address.

Paul Hurley
December 20, 2022 1:18 pm

I can see beamed energy from space competing head-to-head with energy from fusion reactors. 😆

abolition man
Reply to  Paul Hurley
December 20, 2022 2:29 pm

In only twenty more years!

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  abolition man
December 21, 2022 10:40 am

I thought it was 30! You must be an optimist!

Walter Sobchak
December 20, 2022 1:41 pm

You are going to able to stand underneath the microwave beams and collect freshly cooked birds.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
December 21, 2022 10:41 am

And if they beam the power down at wind farm sites, they’ll deliver those cooked birds pre-cut!

Walter Sobchak
December 20, 2022 1:41 pm

Tinfoil hats will be absolutely necessary.

December 20, 2022 2:47 pm

But less destructive to the environment.

Rud Istvan
December 20, 2022 2:47 pm

Just two little physics problems beyond impossible cost.
It is not possible to build a needed transmission line to space. So, the 2 GW PV energy must be beamed down by lasers.
Which raises two other little physics problems. Nobody knows how to build a laser of the needed beam power operating continuously. Fancy NIF isn’t even in the same ballpark—and they have been working on that for 20 years. And, if they did figure that out, the collimated beam would spread out in the turbulent atmosphere full of clouds and water vapor and proceed to cook a rather large area around the target receptor apparatus. Reverse problem of the adaptive laser optics now used to cancel atmospheric ‘blurriness’ with large ground based telescopes.

With ridiculous stuff like this reappearing, you know they still got nothing workable in renewables. They deal in the recently discovered periodic table heavy trans elements impossibilium, unobtainium, and hopium. All three are an improvement on the several existing unstable trans elements that only exist for a fraction of a microsecond before decaying. These three are apparently stable, detectable now over climate alarm decades even tho they do not exist in reality at all.

Curious George
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 20, 2022 3:12 pm

You are too pessimistic. Mr. Goldfinger had that laser in a James Bond movie,

Last edited 1 month ago by Curious George
R Taylor
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 20, 2022 4:09 pm

Better build the receptor and coat the surrounding area with administratium.

abolition man
Reply to  R Taylor
December 20, 2022 6:05 pm

Administratium is much too dense due to the numerous subatomic morons. A thin layer of ice-nine would be a better protective coating; it’s less expensive and lasts an eternity!

abolition man
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 20, 2022 6:07 pm

Are ALL the climate alarmist modelers smoking hopium now!?

Mike Dombroski
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 21, 2022 12:11 am

I wonder if large insolated pits of porous rock material from mining slag/waste (There’s clearly lots of mining that has to be done) could be heated from space during optimal conditions. Perhaps some type of molten salt collector could heat steam that could be pumped through these pits to create reservoirs of dispatchable artificial geothermal electricity.

Philip CM
December 20, 2022 3:18 pm

Can’t we all just relax and be friends …the dilithium core is coming soon. 🤣

Reply to  Philip CM
December 20, 2022 3:37 pm

Technically it’s the matter/anti-matter reaction that produces the energy. Dilithium crystal is what regulates the reaction so it doesn’t blow up the starship. It’s also only used for the warp drive and other energy-intensive systems. Regular old deuterium fusion provides a crew’s day-to-day power needs.

This has been your Star Trek Nerd Out of the Day. 🙂

Reply to  drednicolson
December 20, 2022 7:50 pm

It occurs to me that we should submit a multimillion dollar research proposal to the government to find naturally occurring antimatter bodies in space. A matter/antimatter reaction power plant would solve all of our energy problems. Once the grant is secured we could meet in the Maldives (paid for by the grant) to determine just how in the hell we do that. It may require many, many meetings.

December 20, 2022 3:54 pm

A point that Martin Soltau (“Sol Tout” really?) and Dr. White may neglect is that beamed transmission of large amounts of energy via microwave will cause significant, but very local, “climate” warming.

December 20, 2022 3:57 pm

I’ve been playing on the fringes of the Space Solar Power (SSP) community for years and know many of the folks involved. The fundamentals of the idea are sound and remove many of the drawbacks of terrestrial solar.

First, receiving the solar energy in space eliminates the intermittency problem (except for very short eclipses of the sun by the Earth). Second, the sunlight is not attenuated by clouds or the atmosphere making the full 1360W/m2 available. Third, the volume of space is vast so you’re not consuming otherwise valuable land, mitigating the energy density problem.

Most SSP concepts place the satellites in GEO. The satellite collects solar energy, concentrates it onto PV, converts the electricity to microwaves and beams it to a rectenna on Earth. The microwaves are attenuated very little by clouds or the atmosphere. The waves are diffuse making it safe for humans, wildlife and plants. (No death rays.)

The rectenna is a kilometer scale grid of wires tuned to the wavelength of the microwaves. Grid size will be on the order of a meter or so. The rectenna is connected to the terrestrial power grid like any other power station. The rectenna could be located off-shore or mounted to poles above a corn field.

The beam can be steered to different rectennas at different times providing flexibility in grid management. Because of the lack of intermittency, SSP is perfectly viable for base load power generation.

The obstacles are many. SSP satellites for GW scale production are enormous, many times bigger that the largest human made object in space, the ISS. Again, think kilometer scale and 1,000’s of tons in mass. The design can be massively modular reducing manufacturing and assembly cost, but the real problem is launch cost. At today’s launch prices the economics are untenable. If you believe Elon Musk’s starship reduce these prices by an order of magnitude, it’s starts to make more sense. It really starts to look attractive in a future where the materials come from the Moon or asteroids and the manufacturing takes place in space.

The UK government did a recent assessment:
Space based solar power: de-risking the pathway to net zero – GOV.UK (

The top expert in the US is probably John Mankins, former NASA Chief Technologist, who wrote a whole book on SSP. A more recent paper on his concept is here:

Curious George
Reply to  gsowers
December 20, 2022 4:47 pm

I/m afraid it is more of Captain Picard of USS Enterprise than Jules Verne.

December 20, 2022 5:00 pm

Think of all the Energy you need to launch these Solar Panels, it might even end up being more than the panels ever create and send back. I think somebody just wants to try this as a project, and happy to burn through some investors money.

December 20, 2022 5:16 pm

Maybe someone could answer a question I’ve had about solar panels.

Clearly there is some relationship between the amount of light per unit area and the amount of electricity generated per unit area by solar panels.

Are they tuned to the sunlight level on Earth? Would they generate (say) twice as much electricity per unit area if they were orbiting Venus where the solar illumination is twice as bright? Could the chemical composition be altered to make that so?

Reflectors are much cheaper than solar panels, especially when launching them into Earth orbit.

Tom Abbott
December 20, 2022 5:23 pm

The Chicoms are on the way to building their own Solar Power Satellite

“HELSINKI — China is planning solar power generation and transmission tests at different orbital altitudes over the next decade as part of a phased development of a space-based solar power station.

The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the country’s main, state-owned spacecraft maker, plans to conduct a “Space high voltage transfer and wireless power transmission experiment” in low Earth orbit in 2028.

The satellite will be capable of generating 10 kilowatts and carry a solar cell array, microwave transmitting antenna, a low power laser transmission payload, a transmitting array and test power transmission across distances of 400 kilometers from orbit.”

end excerpt

December 20, 2022 5:34 pm

So how do you get the energy from space to earth? An energy beam – microwave, laser pointed at a receiving station. So when the beam steering computer breaks (things do break) and the giga watt beam starts wandering across the landscape, what then?

December 20, 2022 5:43 pm

I’d much rather have a phaser. I’d probably get it sooner, it would be more useful, and it would be a lot cheaper. (The original Star Trek version, of course.)

December 20, 2022 5:52 pm

This all fell out of the O’Neill space colonies work of the 1970s – 1990s. Bill Brown was the microwave transmission expert at the time. Rectennas were kilometers across. Inbound flux was on the order of natural sunlight. They proposed grazing cattle underneath the raised array. Fun part was the microwave flux, which would heat up the body in a controllable manner. Someone (maybe Brown himself, I forget) proposed using the microwave flux for internal heating, raising internal temps 10 -15 F or so. Made a lot of us very uncomfortable.

Most of the early proposals can be found in the proceedings of the Princeton Conferences on Space Manufacturing.

Last I heard, SSP was most economical today in space to space transmission, where it could be focused. Cheers –

Tom Abbott
Reply to  agimarc
December 21, 2022 3:42 am

Yes, Space Studies Institute did a lot of studies on space-based solar power.

The design I liked most was an inflatable balloon one mile in diameter which was covered on the outside with thin-film solar cells. The balloon was launched deflated and was inflated in orbit using about 40 pounds of helium.

There will be a big market for solar power in orbit once humans reach a certain stage of development in orbit, which shouldn’t be long. The next ten years will be interesting.

December 20, 2022 7:03 pm

Before we invest a ton of money, how about a small scale demonstration. Beam the power about 7 miles and lets see what type of loss you have. A distance of 7 miles should make it simple because the earth curves about 16 feet so you can turn the demonstration on its side and 7 miles will be a good approximation of the atmosphere the power will have to pass through. Personally I am betting in the inverse square law to win. The last time somebody tried this was near 100 years ago and it was a guy named Tesla. He put a lot of money into it and soon ended the project. Maybe somebody knows something about power transmission that I don’t. If so, I will freely admit that they know more than I do after the demonstration.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 20, 2022 7:38 pm

I think the idea is manufacturing on the moon or in orbit possibly using astroids for material. There might even be cheaper ways to get material out of the gravity well. However the question with the link is was the loss because of the atmosphere absorbing the power in which case the loss will be greater with the 7 mile test or did the signal miss the receiver in which case a larger antenna might reduce loss.
Sounds like nobody really wants to know the answer to that one.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Dena
December 21, 2022 12:21 pm

I vote we send all the “climate crisis” true believers to LV-426 to mine the necessary materials.

And since there MIGHT be a threatening alien life form present, I also vote we nuke the site from orbit.

It’s the only way to be sure.

December 20, 2022 10:56 pm

MarkW is cookin’today!
Bro’ do we not worry about being radiated because of that perfectly tight beam that remains perfectly focused and perfectly aimed forever, or do we not worry because the beam is so wide, the power per square is harmless?
You cannot have both. Even if Soros pays you to say so!
Then there is the issue of every researcher NOT paid by the monopolists find serious harm from RF, while EVERY paper paid for by BigTelco assures us “it is not ionising”. They won’t put their hand in a microwave oven to demonstrate the safety of non-ionising radiation, so I don’t know…
In the end, free speech stops where you threaten harm and violence. Are these fools now trying to shut us us by pi551ng us off enough to tell them what their miserable lives are really worth? Do they want a friggin’ slap in da hed? Do they so desperately need to shut me up, they foment violence against themselves?
But I can imagine this working on Mars, early days, before the rich people go there, with only working class expendables running around cleaning up, preparing for the masters’ arrival.

Jim Karlock
December 21, 2022 1:11 am

There is a very simple, costless, solution to our climate crisis:

RECOGNIZE IT ALL AS AL GORE”S CLIMATE SCAM based on lies from its inception.

AGW is Not Science
December 21, 2022 4:45 am

Let me know when they can build the equipment they need in orbit to do this plus the rocket to lift the payload into orbit, all from component materials sourced WITHOUT ANY fossil fuel inputs.

Oh, and when they have a solar powered or wind powered rocket capable of lifting it all, of course.

Until then, just wasting fossil fuels to produce electricity less efficiently than can be done with a coal, oil, or gas power plant.

December 21, 2022 8:38 am

Space-based solar power involves beaming clean energy to Earth from orbital solar farms”

Placed into Earth orbit…
What they’re really saying is that they’re going to spend absurd amounts of money for solar arrays that shade the Earth.

For energy that they have no feasible method to reliably transmit to Earth’s surface.

Gunga Din
December 21, 2022 9:18 am

Beam microwaves through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Lots of dust and clouds and other things floating around up there that microwaves on that scale could heat up.
Will the meme switch from “Climate Change” back to “Global Warming”?

PS What do microwaves do to ozone? (I don’t know.) Will we making more “ozone holes”?
What about oxygen? (I don’t know.) Will we be making more ground-level ozone?

December 21, 2022 1:28 pm

Remember when “Popular Science” had an article about space based solar power production? Remember how they claimed that the power collected would be converted to a microwave for transfer to Earthbound collectors? Remember thing, now that would make a hell-of-a weapon?

Reply to  MaroonedMaroon
December 21, 2022 1:30 pm

… converted to a microwave beam …

Remember thINKing …

Reply to  MaroonedMaroon
December 21, 2022 2:27 pm

And they would burn up in re-entry unless it’s an old Amana.

December 21, 2022 2:13 pm

More SI/FI, 10 million square feet of solar panels orbit the earth on dead Satellites. Wagon train them and beam the power down to Berlin, Scotty! We’ll bill them later. LOL

If it is that easy to beam electricity why do we have a metal wire based grid? It’s 10% more efficient than aluminum transmission at grid scale. Seems like infrastructure cost saving would be a no brainer. SC cable isn’t ready for a massive grid scale and may not be anytime soon. I am asking the question because I know nothing.

My guess the reason is similar to the gasoline vs CNG conundrum.

December 22, 2022 8:31 pm

In the mid 1970s, my thermodynamics professor spent the previous summer as part of a NASA team investigating methods for sending down power from space, just as being discussed here.

As I recall the problem was this: you either sent the power down widely dispersed, which required a huge array on the surface, or highly concentrated, which would require a sterile safety zone on the surface and in the air, and any “misdirection” of the beam could have terrible consequences. Both could suffer high losses during inclement weather, say a snowstorm or thunderstorm.

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