Information about Space based Solar Power earth

In 1968 Dr. Peter Glaser created the idea to capture solar power in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) and beam the power back to Earth.  The idea was to put solar power panels in a 22,000+ mile orbit where they would orbit over the same spot on the Earth, and they would be able to collect solar power from the Sun continuously.  He proposed using microwave energy to beam the collected power to Earth, where it would be converted into electricity and added to the power grid.

It was looked at seriously more than once, but discarded by launch costs.  Launch costs to low Earth orbit (LEO) were then about $5,000/lb to orbit, and twice as much $10,000 to GEO.  Many who looked at this idea felt it would take really low launch costs like $200/kb to LEO.

Since then, launch costs have remained the same.  There have been lots of improvements, but this means that technological improvement has kept up with the rate of inflation.

In part due to the research effort on hard drive technology, photosynthetic cell technology has improved at a much faster pace.  In 2002, in order to collect 5 GW of solar power, you needed to get solar power cells that weighed 2000 tons.  One way that this concept is expressed is KW/KG  - kilowatts per kilogram.  In 2002 it was 2kw/kg.  Last year it was over 16kw/kg, an eight fold increase.  That means that to collect 5 GW of solar power, the solar cells now weigh 250 tons.  At a launch cost to LEO of about $2.5 Billion (at $5,000/ lb), the solar cells may no longer be the most expensive part of the project.

Solar panels weigh quite a lot more than just the solar cells, way too much more to launch to GEO and be cost effective.  Power has to be sold for a reasonable price to be worthwhile.  If you can deliver 5 GW of green baseline power, if you can get 5 cents/kilowatt hour, that is probably a lot.  That puts quite a few constraints on your costs.  At 5 cents/kilowatt hour for 5 GW of power at 90% or so delivery your bill is for about $2 Billion per year.  So $20 Billion for the project could be paid off in 10 years at that price. That price is in line with other power plant costs.  I found $11 Billion for a 5 GW coal facility, and $15 Billion for a 5 GW nuclear facility.  In both cases that is before you buy the fuel, or mitigate the waste products.  In the SBSP system, the cost is free from the Sun, and the only waste product is a small amount of added heat from the power beaming.  Both the coal and nuclear plants add heat to the environment as well.

The idea for orbiting and using the main boosters of a launch configuration like the Shuttle or the Delta-IV to create a low g manufacturing facility and materials stream for processing is part of the idea for creating a less expensive SBSP system.  You create a manufacturing facility that is relatively cheap to construct, and cheap to maintain, and use additional main boosters as a materials stream to re-manufacture into solar power panels in LEO.

Using the solar power energy of these panels to be the energy to drive ion engines, you can reduce the costs of taking the solar power panels to GEO by 7 times the cost of propellants from Earth to GEO.  Ion engines are 7 times more efficient in space to go from LEO to GEO, but need energy supplied to them, which you have from the solar panels you created in LEO.

This is the concept that I patented.