[ExI] Thoughts on Space based solar power (risks)
Paul D. Fernhout
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Sat Nov 22 13:32:28 UTC 2008
> I don't see any reason some hundreds to a thousand power sats and
> rectennas would be any more brittle than the current situation.
> Rectenna goes out, there are several feeding that section of the grid.
> Power sat dies, there are spares. Should be more robust. The only
> common mode would be a big solar flare wiping out the PV cells. For
> other reasons I doubt PV cells will be used anyway.
There is the risk of failure of capital concentration. Put all our eggs in
the SPS basket (and launched from Earth, not built in space) and we may have
to stop investing in renewables on Earth. That is a big risk.
Then there is common mode failure. They may all be subject to the same
attack via their control signals. Or they may be all easily targeted by a
military strike or terrorists. Or they may all be shattered in a chain
reaction from orbital debris (there is a lot of junk up there already ready
"The Kessler Syndrome is a scenario, proposed by NASA consultant Donald J.
Kessler, in which the volume of space debris in Low Earth Orbit is so high
that objects in orbit are frequently struck by debris, creating even more
debris and a greater risk of further impacts. The implication of this
scenario is that the escalating amount of debris in orbit could eventually
render space exploration, and even the use of satellites, too prone to loss
to be feasible for many generations."
Then there are unknown physical effects of long term space operations and
material degradation in space, which are much bigger unknowns that ground
But the bigger point is even with thousands of rectennas, you still need a
grid to distribute the power. If people can soon generate their own power at
a lower price than maintaining the grid, then who are your customers? Even
if you get big industrial customers, home use will drive falling renewable
costs. Then competing will be hard on a price basis. So there is a
fundamental economic business model risk.
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