Future Energy eNews   IntegrityResearchInstitute.org      Mar. 27, 2008       

1) Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact: Electromagnetism and LifeDr. Glen Gordon finds EM controls protein iteration in his new journal article (He was a COFE2 speaker in 2006)
2) Solar Power Finance and Investment Seminar - Experts share their ways to profit from solar installations
3) Seriously Souped-Up Lithium Power Battery - Tesla Roadster and others prepare to slay the gas guzzlers
4) Turning CO2 Back Into Hydrocarbons - Los Alamos Lab uses solar energy to split CO2 into CO and H
5) Synthetic Fuel to Steal CO2 from Air - Green Freedom project targets vehicles and aircraft
6) Space-Based Solar Power Boosts Acceptance - Special Report along with an alliance and study group

1) When Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact: Electromagnetism and Life
Source: Electromagnetic Research & Education Foundation     Released: Tue 18-Mar-2008


This first time synthesis by a physician/scientist nullifies the 1910 Flexner Report charge of “irregular science” against electromagnetism by explaining the basic principles of electromagnetic control of cell function. Scheduled as a keynote presentation at the prestigious 2008 IEEE sponsored meeting (www.icbbe.org) on bioinformatics to be held in Shanghai, it lays to rest “you don’t know the mechanism” so often leveled against this universal force. Linus Pauling preceded Stephen Hawking in establishing electromagnetism’s control of chemical reactions, biologic response, and life itself but the precise mechanism underlying that control had not been defined until this paper. A new approach in the treatment of illness and trauma awaits its wider understanding.

Newswise — 

 “Electromagnetism Controls All Chemical Reactions, All Biological Response. Life Itself”                                          -- Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time)

This report reflects 25 years of nanosecond pulsed electromagnetic field (nPEMF) investigation, and an interdisciplinary synthesis based upon experimental reports since the 1970s. Electromagnetic fields drive a classic resonance system as forcers that are magneto-acoustically transduced (damped) by paramagnetic-diamagnetic elements to create a phonon driven, non-linear information system, which is iteratively processed by beta sub-units to prime protein conformational adaptive response (folding) of alpha sub-units. This low voltage information system sets the stage for the ATP power system to transport ions and substrate through appropriate channels, regulates DNA, and enhances protein enzyme activity in support of homeostasis. Cell function reflects dual energy systems: 1) a low voltage information circuit guided by principles of physics to control cell function, and 2) a power circuit driving chemical outcomes to complete it.

Dipole forces generate phonons when paramagnetic and diamagnetic elements and small molecules, e.g. amino acids, constrained within a protein matrix, oscillate about their bond lengths to become magneto-acoustic transducers in response to natural or artificial EM fields. When damped within physiologic parameters such transductions conduct heat and sound through proteins in a native (elementary) mode at the speed of sound. While sub-threshold in themselves they achieve resonance with similar phonon harmonics from other strategically self-assembled paramagnetic/diamagnetic constructs (PDCs) within the protein to enhance signal intensity several magnitudes (Kruglikov and Dertinger, 1994.) DNA, and other proteins posses a sophisticated capacity to electively combine such harmonics with other “noise”, i.e. stochastic resonance, to enhance their activity in support of cell function.

Dr. Gordon's paper, entitled “Protein Iteration and Cellular Response to Extrinsic Electromagnetic Forces,” is available on the Web site of The 2nd International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedical Engineering at http://www.icbbe.org/icbbe2008submission/website/icbbe/keynoteSpeakers.htm

For More Information

Dr. Glen Gordon is President and CEO of EM-Probe Technologies, Inc. www.em-probe.com which has applied his nanosecond pulsed EM field technology to inexpensive electrotherapy products which really work.   -  Ed. Note

2) Solar Power Finance & Investment Summit


April 7-9, 2008 / San Diego, CA

Click Here To Download A Complete Conference Brochure



The Summit brings together leading utility-scale and commercial/industrial rooftop project developers, investors, lenders, solar technology companies and other key industry players to share their perspectives on the latest innovations and developments in the solar power project finance and investment market to discuss what it takes to profit from the increasing flow of solar project deals.

These market players will provide the latest intelligence on the current market environment for putting together solar power project transactions and discuss what they are looking for when they get involved, what future opportunities exist for partners and investors and how to successfully get deals done in 2008 and beyond.

The Summit is taking a new step forward in 2008 by adding a day focused on solar company financing. This portion of the Summit will bring together solar companies, venture capitalists, private equity, investment bankers, lenders and other financial players to explore the opportunities for solar companies to fund their growth, research and development, and construction of projects.

It will also explore such developments as going public and mergers and acquisitions.

Solar Power Project Finance Pre-Conference Workshop

April 7, 2008

The pre-conference workshop will provide an excellent opportunity for attendees to obtain step-by-step instruction on how to successfully structure and finance solar projects in today’s marketplace.



Click Here To Download A Complete Conference Brochure


3) Souped-Up Battery Prepares to Slay the Gas Guzzlers
Mark Anderson, New Scientist, 29 February 2008


The dream of climate-friendly, petroleum-free motoring is creeping closer - thanks to a clutch of breakthroughs in nanotechnology. Several recently reported lab findings promise to vastly improve the safety and performance of the high-capacity batteries that electric cars will need, at last making them a viable alternative to today's petroleum-powered vehicles.

Until now the odds have been stacked against the electric car. A typical petrol-driven car can run for some 500 kilometres on a tank of fuel and can be expected to travel 150,000 kilometres (about 10 years' typical driving) without a major overhaul. Today's electric cars don't come close on either count.

Even legislation to clamp down on gas guzzlers is not helping much, as the car industry is responding by making petrol and diesel engines more fuel-efficient. Competitions like the Automotive X-prize - which is offering $10 million to the company that can develop a car able to travel 100 miles on a US gallon of fuel (equivalent to 42.5 kilometres per litre) - are having the same effect (New Scientist, 2 February, p 35). All in all, the internal combustion engine shows no sign of conceding defeat any time soon.

But in the long term, the likely option is that cars' fuel tanks will be replaced by scaled-up versions of the lithium ion batteries used in today's laptops and cellphones. That's because these batteries pack far more energy into a small package than any alternative.

Lithium ion batteries have been with us for some time now - long enough to reveal their major drawbacks. They have a relatively short lifespan and, in extreme circumstances, can catch fire or even explode. These are hardly the attributes needed to knock the internal combustion engine off its perch: battery engineers still have a job on their hands to make lithium power an everyday reality.

For now, most electric vehicles get their power from two other types of battery: lead-acid and nickel metal hydride (NiMH). Lead-acid cells are heavy and bulky for the amount of energy they can hold, which means they are only useful when the vehicle can make do with a limited range: golf carts and the UK's milk floats are classic examples. The tiny G-Wiz runabout made by the Reva Electric Car Company of Bangalore, India, also uses lead-acid cells.

Today's best-selling hybrid petrol-electric cars - notably the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid - use NiMH batteries. "Nickel cells have less initial safety issues than lithium batteries," says Spencer Quong, senior vehicles engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Berkeley, California. "The costs are known, and they've got the production plants up and running."

Yet where power is all-important, the advantages of lithium ion batteries can already win out. The new Roadster made by Tesla Motors of San Carlos, California, is an all-electric sports car with a chassis based on the Lotus Elise. It boasts a 185-kilowatt engine powered by nearly 7000 finger-sized lithium ion batteries packed into its trunk. This takes it from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in around 5 seconds, and gives a top speed of 200 kilometres per hour. The range is a much more modest 350 kilometres - and then only if conservatively driven. Tesla hopes to sell 600 of the two-seaters by the end of this year.

Unfortunately, the performance figures are not the only spectacular numbers associated with the Roadster. It costs a cool $100,000, and the battery pack is expected to need replacing after three to five years at a cost of $20,000.

Lithium ion batteries have such a short life partly because the cathode, which is usually made from layers of lithium cobalt dioxide, wears out quickly. When the battery is being charged, positively charged lithium ions migrate from the cathode across a separator screen into the porous graphite anode, which becomes replete with lithium atoms. The battery delivers power when the lithium atoms feed electrons via the graphite electrode into the external circuit. The resulting lithium ions then leave the anode and migrate back into the cathode, where they are absorbed.

This repeated gain and loss of lithium ions causes a continual expansion and contraction that eventually degrades the cathode's layers. It also leads to a build-up of impurities that further reduce the cathode's ability to retain lithium ions. As a result, the cathode degrades after only a year or two of regular use. If stressed, it can also overheat, releasing volatile chemicals and leading to short circuits that can cause a spectacular electrical fire.

Now A123, a company in Watertown, Massachusetts, has found a way to make the cathode more durable, using a material called lithium iron phosphate in place of the delicate lithium cobalt dioxide. A123's lithium iron phosphate cathode has a birdcage-like nanostructure that allows lithium ions to enter and exit without causing damaging expansion and contraction. "Mother Nature was kind," says Bart Riley, A123's chief technical officer. "The crystal structure of the cathode is very similar in the charged and discharged state." This means it can survive about 10 times as many charges and discharges, says Ric Fulop of A123.

A123's batteries pack twice the power of NiMH cells of the same size. While that's not as much as a standard lithium ion battery, the risk of conflagration is far lower. "They're very powerful little batteries," says David Swan, a consultant in rechargeable battery technology at DHS Engineering in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada. "They seem to work very well."

A123's innovation has been taken up by Hymotion of Toronto, Canada, which has developed a kit for the Prius that allows it to have an additional high-capacity lithium ion battery that drivers charge from the mains electricity supply. The lithium kit will significantly improve the car's fuel efficiency compared with using NiMH cells alone because it will not always be using batteries charged by the engine. However, some of that improved fuel efficiency will be offset by emissions at the power station where the electricity is generated.

Search giant Google says it will be fitting the Hymotion kits to its entire hybrid car fleet. A123 is also developing batteries for possible use in General Motors' planned Chevrolet Volt hybrid car, which it expects to launch in 2010.

It could get even better, with improvements to the anode as well as the cathode. A group led by Yiying Wu at Ohio State University in Columbus has developed a novel anode made from nanoscopic wires of cobalt oxide. Because the nanowires have a much larger surface area than a flat substrate, lithium ions can flow in and out more easily, Wu says. This could increase both a battery's capacity and its peak power. "It should be interesting for practical applications for hybrid vehicles," Wu says. "The key thing for hybrids is high performance and high current," and according to Wu his nanowire array can achieve both.

Yi Cui of Stanford University in California has taken a similar approach but with a different material. By using nanoscale silicon wires instead of graphite he has made an anode that holds 10 times as many lithium ions as an equivalent graphite one (Nature Nanotechnology, vol 3, p 31). Though the diffusion of lithium ions into and out of the silicon's crystalline structure causes it to expand and contract with each cycle, this is only a problem with a flat silicon anode. Silicon nanowires, grown like grass on the anode's surface, thicken as they absorb lithium ions, and slim down when they leave, but because the wires are so small the stress is not great enough to do any damage.

Swan notes that a cathode with roughly the same capacity is still needed to supply the lithium ions, but Cui's group are on the case. "We are using a similar nanowire idea for the cathode," says team member Candace Chan.

"Every improvement counts," says Fulop. "The anode also affects the system's power and lifespan. Everybody is trying to improve both components."

Ideas are one thing, practice another. Quong recalls a Prius driver in Alaska complaining that he only gets half the fuel economy in the winter that he does in the summer. "The major question is durability," he observes. "Can they make a battery that will last as long as today's petrol-driven vehicles and which works well from the desert to Alaska? That's their challenge."

Cars and Motoring - Learn more about the latest technologies in our comprehensive special report.

Energy and Fuels - Learn more about the looming energy crisis in our comprehensive special report.

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From issue 2645 of New Scientist magazine, 29 February 2008, page 28-29


4) Turning  CO2  Back Into Hydrocarbons 


Carbon dioxide is the devil molecule of our time. Belched out from vehicle exhausts and power stations, it is the biggest contributor to global warming. As such it is universally recognised as a Bad Thing. Yet a pioneering band of researchers would like us to see it differently - as a valuable resource. They are developing a collection of technologies to retrieve some of the CO2 that would otherwise pollute the atmosphere, using its carbon atoms to form hydrocarbons. These could then be used as vehicle fuel, or as a feedstock to make plastics and other materials we now derive from oil. So could the expanding clouds of CO2 in our atmosphere really have a silver lining?

The idea is simple. Find a way of removing an oxygen atom from a CO2 molecule and you are left with carbon monoxide (CO). From there it is but a short step to hydrocarbon riches. Mix CO with hydrogen, pass the mixture over a catalyst, and out comes liquid hydrocarbon fuel. This reaction, called the Fischer-Tropsch process, was invented as long ago as the 1920s. It was used by Germany during the second world war, when oil was in short supply, to make petrol from gasified coal, and apartheid-era South Africa did the same when sanctions blocked oil imports.

The hard part is the first step: finding a cost-effective energy-efficient way of creating CO from CO2. The simplest route is to heat CO2 molecules to around 2400 °C, at which point they spontaneously split into CO and oxygen. The problem is finding the energy to do this.

One obvious candidate is sunlight. Los Alamos Renewable Energy (LARE), a company based in Pojoaque, New Mexico, has built a small-scale prototype reactor that demonstrates how it can be harnessed. In the LARE reactor, CO2 is fed into a reaction chamber that is sealed at one end by a quartz window 8 centimetres in diameter. The chamber is fixed at the focal point of a mirrored dish that concentrates sunlight through the chamber's window onto a ceramic rod set inside the chamber to collect the heat. As the gas comes into contact with the rod its temperature rises to around 2400 °C, causing the molecules to break down and release CO and oxygen. Reed Jensen, LARE's managing director, says a larger prototype reactor will be ready for trials in a year's time, though he is not saying how big this reactor will be, nor how much CO it will produce.

One of the drawbacks of this approach is the high operating temperature, says Nathan Siegel of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a rival team is at work. High temperatures lead to heavy thermal losses, which in turn can reduce efficiency. Though the sun's energy is free, equipment to generate and withstand these temperatures is expensive to build, making efficient operation vital if the process is to be cost-effective.

With this in mind, the Sandia team is developing a rival system known as CR5 (short for counter-rotating ring receiver reactor recuperator) which operates at less extreme temperatures. Like the LARE reactor it has a concentrator dish that focuses the sun's rays. In this case, the high temperatures are generated on one side of a stack of 14 rings made of a cobalt ferrite ceramic, a material that when heated releases oxygen from its molecular lattice without destroying the lattice's integrity. The rings, which are about 30 centimetres in diameter, rotate at around one revolution per minute inside a sealed double chamber. Sunlight focused through a window in the hot side of the chamber heats the rings to 1500 °C, causing the ceramic lattice to liberate oxygen atoms. As the rings rotate, the heated section passes to the rear of the chamber, where it cools to around 1100 °C as it is bathed in CO2. At this temperature the deoxygenated ceramic reacts with the CO2 molecules to grab back the oxygen atom missing from its lattice, leaving behind a molecule of CO. As the ring continues to rotate, the reoxygenated section passes back into the hot side of the chamber and the cycle begins again (see Diagram).

Proper heating and cooling of the rings is crucial to the operation of the process. On the heated side, the rings must reach the correct temperature for the ceramic to liberate oxygen, and they must cool by several hundred degrees by the time they reach the cool side in order to react with the CO2. To help achieve this, alternate rings rotate in opposite directions, so as the hot section of each ring moves towards the cool side of the chamber it is cooled by neighbouring rings moving in the opposite direction. Both hot and cooler sides of the chamber are maintained at equal pressure to minimise the flow of gases between them.

The CR5 was originally developed as a way to produce hydrogen, using steam in the cool chamber rather than CO2, but its inventor, Rich Diver, reckoned that splitting CO2 would offer a more efficient way of capturing solar energy. Burning the CO formed in the solar reactor should deliver 10 per cent of the energy that was required to produce it, and in April he and his colleagues will switch on a prototype reactor to put their predictions to the test. They calculate it should be able to produce about 100 litres of CO per hour.

Reversing the fuel cell

The idea of using solar energy to convert CO2 into a carbon-based fuel is being taken a step further by Gabriele Centi at the Department of Industrial Chemistry and Engineering of Materials at the University of Messina, Italy. Rather than producing CO with a view to turning that into something more useful, he is building an electrochemical cell that produces hydrocarbon molecules such as nonane and ethylene - important chemical building blocks for plastics and other materials currently derived from oil.

Centi's cell is a distant cousin of the fuel cells that generate electricity by reacting hydrogen or methanol with oxygen, but with the chemical reaction running in reverse. On one side of the cell is a titanium dioxide catalyst that encourages water molecules to split when hit by photons of sunlight, producing hydrogen ions and oxygen gas. The hydrogen ions migrate through a proton exchange membrane to the other side of the cell, where a catalyst containing platinum nanotubes facilitates the reaction with CO2 to produce hydrocarbons.

The energy that would be liberated by using these hydrocarbons as fuel amounts to just under 1 per cent of the solar energy needed to produce it. This may not seem like much but it's better than the energy conversion rate that plants achieve through photosynthesis, and Centi says there is room for improvement by tweaking the catalysts.

So how do these technologies stack up against biofuels as a way of using solar energy to capture atmospheric carbon and turn it into fuel? Ellen Stechel, manager of Sandia's Fuels and Energy Transitions department, estimates that enough CR5 plants to fuel 100 million domestic vehicles with synthetic gasoline could be accommodated on about 5800 square kilometres of land. "That's actually not very much," she says. A recent survey of seven states in the US Southwest revealed that more than 135,000 square kilometres of suitable land were available there. "This is land that's not being used for anything else," she says.

By contrast, biofuels compete with food crops for fertile land. What's more, the percentage of the solar energy that is available from the fuel is staggeringly small - about 0.1 per cent if you take into account the irrigation, harvesting, transportation and refinery process, Stechel says.

To make the most of the available land, Jensen suggests coupling LARE's carbon capture reactor with an electricity generating station that would use the heat wasted by the reactor itself. He reckons the combined installation could convert as much as 48 per cent of the solar energy into usable energy.

As oil and natural gas become more expensive and scarce, petrochemical companies are increasingly interested in finding new raw materials to replace them. Centi is now working with one French firm to explore the use of recycled CO2 to meet this demand, though he refused to name the company. If competitively priced, hydrocarbons produced from industrial sources of CO2 could one day be used to make plastics and other products, where it would remain fixed for years rather than being pumped out into the atmosphere. The devil molecule may yet redeem itself.

Energy and Fuels - Learn more about the looming energy crisis in our comprehensive special report.

Climate Change – Want to know more about global warming: the science, impacts and political debate? Visit our continually updated special report.

Duncan Graham-Rowe is a writer based in Brighton, UK

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From issue 2645 of New Scientist magazine, 03 March 2008, page 32-34


5) Synthetic Fuel Concept to Steal CO2 From Air

Contact: Nancy Ambrosiano, nwa@lanl.gov, (505) 667-0471

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., February 12, 2008 -- Green Freedom™ for carbon-neutral, sulfur-free fuel and chemical production http://www.lanl.gov/news/index.php/fuseaction/home.story/story_id/12554

Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed a low-risk, transformational concept, called Green Freedom™, for large-scale production of carbon-neutral, sulfur-free fuels and organic chemicals from air and water.

Currently, the principal market for the Green Freedom production concept is fuel for vehicles and aircraft.

At the heart of the technology is a new process for extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and making it available for fuel production using a new form of electrochemical separation. By integrating this electrochemical process with existing technology, researchers have developed a new, practical approach to producing fuels and organic chemicals that permits continued use of existing industrial and transportation infrastructure. Fuel production is driven by carbon-neutral power.

"Our concept enhances U.S. energy and material security by reducing dependence on imported oil. Initial system and economic analyses indicate that the prices of Green Freedom commodities would be either comparable to the current market or competitive with those of other carbon-neutral, alternative technologies currently being considered," said F. Jeffrey Martin of the Laboratory's Decisions Applications Division, principal investigator on the project.

Martin will be presenting a talk on the subject at the Alternative Energy NOW conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, February 20, 2008.

In addition to the new electrochemical separation process, the Green Freedom system can use existing cooling towers, such as those of nuclear power plants, with carbon-capture equipment that eliminates the need for additional structures to process large volumes of air. The primary environmental impact of the production facility is limited to the footprint of the plant. It uses non-hazardous materials for its feed and operation and has a small waste stream volume. In addition, unlike large-scale biofuel concepts, the Green Freedom system does not add pressure to agricultural capacity or use large tracts of land or farming resources for production.

The concept's viability has been reviewed and verified by both industrial and semi-independent Los Alamos National Laboratory technical reviews. The next phase will demonstrate the new electrochemical process to prove the ability of the system to both capture carbon dioxide and pull it back out of solution. An industrial partnership consortium will be formed to commercialize the Green Freedom concept.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security. The Laboratory is operated by a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, BWX Technologies, and Washington Group International for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health and global security concerns.

6) Space Solar Power: Limitless clean energy from space

National Space Society, Ad Astra, Vol. 20, No. 1, Spring, 2008
The United States and the world need to find new sources of clean energy. Space Solar Power gathers energy from sunlight in space and transmits it wirelessly to Earth. Space solar power can solve our energy and greenhouse gas emissions problems. Not just help, not just take a step in the right direction, but solve. Space solar power can provide large quantities of energy to each and every person on Earth with very little environmental impact.

The solar energy available in space is literally billions of times greater than we use today. The lifetime of the sun is an estimated 4-5 billion years, making space solar power a truly long-term energy solution. As Earth receives only one part in 2.3 billion of the Sun's output, space solar power is by far the largest potential energy source available, dwarfing all others combined. Solar energy is routinely used on nearly all spacecraft today. This technology on a larger scale, combined with already demonstrated wireless power transmission (see 2-minute video of demo), can supply nearly all the electrical needs of our planet.

Another need is to move away from fossil fuels for our transportation system. While electricity powers few vehicles today, hybrids will soon evolve into plug-in hybrids which can use electric energy from the grid. As batteries, super-capacitors, and fuel cells improve, the gasoline engine will gradually play a smaller and smaller role in transportation — but only if we can generate the enormous quantities of electrical energy we need. It doesn't help to remove fossil fuels from vehicles if you just turn around and use fossil fuels again to generate the electricity to power those vehicles. Space solar power can provide the needed clean power for any future electric transportation system.

While all viable energy options should be pursued with vigor, space solar power has a number of substantial advantages over other energy sources.

Advantages of Space Solar Power (also known as Space-Based Solar Power, or SBSP)

  • Unlike oil, gas, ethanol, and coal plants, space solar power does not emit greenhouse gases.
  • Unlike coal and nuclear plants, space solar power does not compete for or depend upon increasingly scarce fresh water resources.
  • Unlike bio-ethanol or bio-diesel, space solar power does not compete for increasingly valuable farm land or depend on natural-gas-derived fertilizer. Food can continue to be a major export instead of a fuel provider.
  • Unlike nuclear power plants, space solar power will not produce hazardous waste, which needs to be stored and guarded for hundreds of years.
  • Unlike terrestrial solar and wind power plants, space solar power is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in huge quantities. It works regardless of cloud cover, daylight, or wind speed.
  • Unlike nuclear power plants, space solar power does not provide easy targets for terrorists.
  • Unlike coal and nuclear fuels, space solar power does not require environmentally problematic mining operations.
  • Space solar power will provide true energy independence for the nations that develop it, eliminating a major source of national competition for limited Earth-based energy resources.
  • Space solar power will not require dependence on unstable or hostile foreign oil providers to meet energy needs, enabling us to expend resources in other ways.
  • Space solar power can be exported to virtually any place in the world, and its energy can be converted for local needs — such as manufacture of methanol for use in places like rural India where there are no electric power grids. Space solar power can also be used for desalination of sea water.
  • Space solar power can take advantage of our current and historic investment in aerospace expertise to expand employment opportunities in solving the difficult problems of energy security and climate change.
  • Space solar power can provide a market large enough to develop the low-cost space transportation system that is required for its deployment. This, in turn, will also bring the resources of the solar system within economic reach.

Disadvantages of Space Solar Power

  • High development cost. Yes, space solar power development costs will be very large, although much smaller than American military presence in the Persian Gulf or the costs of global warming, climate change, or carbon sequestration. The cost of space solar power development always needs to be compared to the cost of not developing space solar power.

Requirements for Space Solar Power

The technologies and infrastructure required to make space solar power feasible include:

  • Low-cost, environmentally-friendly launch vehicles. Current launch vehicles are too expensive, and at high launch rates may pose atmospheric pollution problems of their own. Cheaper, cleaner launch vehicles are needed.
  • Large scale in-orbit construction and operations. To gather massive quantities of energy, solar power satellites must be large, far larger than the International Space Station (ISS), the largest spacecraft built to date. Fortunately, solar power satellites will be simpler than the ISS as they will consist of many identical parts.
  • Power transmission. A relatively small effort is also necessary to assess how to best transmit power from satellites to the Earth’s surface with minimal environmental impact.

All of these technologies are reasonably near-term and have multiple attractive approaches. However, a great deal of work is needed to bring them to practical fruition.

In the longer term, with sufficient investments in space infrastructure, space solar power can be built from materials from space. The full environmental benefits of space solar power derive from doing most of the work outside of Earth's biosphere. With materials extraction from the Moon or near-Earth asteroids, and space-based manufacture of components, space solar power would have essentially zero terrestrial environmental impact. Only the energy receivers need be built on Earth.

Space solar power can completely solve our energy problems long term. The sooner we start and the harder we work, the shorter "long term" will be.



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