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Experts at Congressional Roundtable Offer Space Solar Power in Answer to President’s Call for New Energy Source


Artist concept of a Space Solar Power plant in orbit. Artwork courtesy NASA.

Washington, D.C., February 28, 2001 – In response to President George W. Bush’s call for new energy sources in his speech to the nation Tuesday night, politicians, experts and scientists called for the nation to develop Space Solar Power as a long term solution to the nation’s energy needs.

The Roundtable on Space Solar Power was sponsored by Senator Don Nickles (R – Oklahoma) and Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-23rd District, New York) and addressed the issue of government leadership and public investment in making SSP a reality.

“The panel participants clearly recognize the promise of Space Solar Power to commercially deliver environmentally friendly power,” stated Margo Deckard, Space Solar Power Campaign Manager for the Space Frontier Foundation. Ms. Deckard also stated that “we must make a public investment now for Space Solar Power to be a reality in 20 years.”

The concept behind Space Solar Power is to collect solar energy in space and transmit it to customers on the surface using low frequency radio waves or other means. It was first proposed by Dr. Peter Glaser in the 1970’s and was studied by the Department of Energy but later dropped as the energy crisis abated.

Several speakers supported the idea of a near term demonstration of Space Solar Power technology, involving an Earth-to-space or space-to-Earth transmission of electricity. House Space Sub-Committee Chairman Dana Rohrbacher (R-54th District, California) stated he supports “step-by-step development of this technology in which the private sector must play a major role in each step.”

“A Space Solar Power plant could potentially provide electrical services that would represent real market premiums above those that could be collected by terrestrial baseload power plants. These potential premiums arise from the ability of the beamed power to be “switched” to other land-based receivers known as rectennas. This would allow for a Space Solar Power plant to sell and deliver power to the highest priced electric market at any one hour, day, season or year,” noted Michael Schaal, a Senior Analyst at Energy Ventures Analysis Inc. Mr. Schaal further commented that “the most obvious example of this capability would be to consider sending power to different regional power markets during a “day” as each market reaches its peak load.”

The panel recommended a NASA Discovery-class program to demonstrate space-to-Earth power beaming in 5 years. The Discovery mission would have a total price tag of $295 million dollars with a program kick-off of $20 million in FY 2002. It was further proposed that this technology would require multi-agency collaboration and responsibility and that a senior agency taskforce should be formed to define these roles and responsibilities.

The meeting was sponsored by the non-profit Space Frontier Foundation, FINDS (the Foundation for the International Non-Government Development of Space) and Pro-Space, a grass roots space lobby. Rick Tumlinson, president of the Foundation, congratulated Margo Deckard on an excellent and professional event. He and the rest of the organizations send a special thanks to Joe Gillin and Rich Robins, whose volunteer efforts helped make this event first class.