Los Angeles, CA, February 5, 1998 – According to the Space Frontier Foundation, one solution to potential global warming lies buried within the newly released White House budget proposal. With little fanfare, a new “placeholder” line item in NASA’s budget could allocate $10 million over the next two years to study Space Solar Power (SSP) – a new, clean energy system that collects the Sun’s energy in orbit and transmits power to Earth via radio waves to replace the burning of some carbon dioxide-producing fuels. Many believe that burning such fuels can contribute to a global greenhouse effect. The Space Frontier Foundation, a national media and policy organization, believes that the proposed budget is insufficient to adequately assess this new technology.
“Space Solar Power has the potential to dramatically improve Earth’s environment,” said Foundation vice-president Ben Muniz. “If this technology proves feasible and if the environmental impact studies turn out positive, then the dream of cheap, clean and renewable power to satisfy the growing needs of both industrialized and developing nations can become a reality. Clearly, NASA needs to show clear leadership here, but this proposed effort is woefully underfunded.”
The SSP concept was invented by Dr. Peter Glaser of Arthur D. Little in the late 1960s. NASA, the Department of Energy and the National Research Council examined the idea in detail in the 1970s and early 1980s, but it was deemed too costly at the time. However, NASA recently completed a two year “Fresh Look” study to examine the impact of advances in technology and found several concepts to be technically feasible, environmentally sound, and economically competitive with ground-based power sources. That study forms the basis of the new budget request. The Foundation is concerned that the small size of the budget proposal and its uncertain “placeholder” status show that exploring SSP is not a priority at NASA.
“NASA is moving in the right direction, but they need to clearly state that this is a high priority issue for them,” stated Muniz. The Foundation believes that such a position by NASA would help in bringing together the technical community, environmental groups, policy makers, power companies and other stakeholders to exchange information in preparation for environmental studies. The group also recommends that NASA start an aggressive program to demonstrate the component technologies required to build a prototype SSP system, leading the way for private sector development and operation. “The potential benefits of collecting solar power in space for use on Earth are too enormous to put this issue on a back burner,” continued Muniz.