"Although it’s a very grandiose vision, it makes
total sense," Sage told Universe Today. "This is an inevitable
technology; it's going to happen. If we can put solar panels in
space where the
sun shines 24
hours a day, if we have a safe way of transmitting the energy to Earth and
broadcasting it anywhere, that is a serious game changer." If
everything falls into place for this company, they could be
producing commercially available SBSP within a decade.
The basic concept of SBSP is having solar cells
in space collecting energy from sun, then converting the energy
into a low intensity microwave beam, sending it down to Earth
where it is collected on a rectenna, and then fed into the power
grid to provide electricity. Almost 200 million gigawatts of
solar energy is beamed towards the Earth every second, which is
more energy than our civilization has used since the dawn of the
electrical age. We only need a way to harness that energy and
make it usable.
Space Energy, Inc.'s vision is to help create an
energy-independent world, and improve the lives of millions of
people by bringing a source of safe, clean energy to the planet
from space. They are looking to become the world's leading, and
perhaps the first, SBSP enterprise.
Solar collector beaming energy to Earth. Image
courtesy Mafic Studios.
"The biggest challenge for SBSP is making it work
on a commercial level in terms of bottom line," said Sage,
"i.e., putting together a business case that would allow the
enormous infrastructure costs to be raised, the plan
implemented, and then electricity sold at a price that is
reasonable. I say 'reasonable' and not just 'competitive'
because we're getting into a time where selling energy only on a
price basis isn't going to be the criteria for purchase."
Currently, there are times in the US when
electricity is sold wholesale for close to a dollar a kilowatt
during peak usage or times of emergency when power needs to be
shipped around the national grid. Sage said SBSP will never be
cost comparable with the current going rate of 6 or 7 cents a
kilowatt due to the enormous set-up costs.
"We believe we can get it to a reasonable price,
a fair market price as the demand for energy increases," Sage
A huge energy gap is looming for our world, and
that too, will change the energy game.
According to a white paper written by aerospace
engineer James Michael Snead, "The
End of Easy Energy and What Are We Going To Do About It," in
order to meet the world’s projected increase in energy needs by
2100 which likely will be at least three times what is being
produced today, today’s sustainable energy production must
expand by a factor of over 25. Under that scenario, even if the
US were to build 70 new nuclear plants, add the equivalent of 15
more Hoover Dams, expand the geothermal capacity by 50 times
what it is today, install over a million large land or sea wind
turbines covering 150,000 square miles, build 60,000 square
miles of commercial solar voltaic farms, and on top of that
convert 1.3 billion dry tons of food mass to bio fuels, still
only 30% of the power needs would be filled by 2100, or perhaps
"Looking at every single technology we can as a
civilization to try and fill the energy gap in a clean and
resourceful, sustainable way, technologies like SBSP have to be
made to work," said Sage.
Peter Sage. Image courtesy Space Energy, Inc.
He says this is an important point. "We're not
setting ourselves up to compete with coal, or nuclear, or ground
based solar or wind. I don't want to pick a fight with any of
those industries saying that we're trying to take a piece of
their pie. What we're saying is that right now, from a
responsible perspective in terms of being a good steward for the
environment, we need to look at every single source of energy
that we can get our hands on, primarily green, and develop it
regardless, because we're going to need it. SBSP is one of the
few forms of energy that has the ability to be base-load, i.e.,
24-7, and it's the only form of energy that can be broadcast on
The first phase of Space Energy, Inc.'s plan is
to launch a small prototype satellite into low Earth orbit.
"This will help validate the numbers we are speculating on at
this point, but also validate several different aspects of what
SBSP can do," said Sage. "From a successful demonstration, we
are hoping to close power purchase agreements with one of
several entities we are in discussions with at present. And on
the strength of that we should be able to put the first
commercial satellite in orbit."
With regards to the timetable, Sage was hesitant
to commit to a schedule. "As timetables go, everything needs to
be flexible, but we are looking to close the financing for the
demonstrator during the first quarter of this year (2009). The
demonstrator is a 24 to 36 month project and, from there, we
will start the commercial build-out of the main satellite, which
could take up to four years to be operational."
Satellites in orbit collecting solar power.
Image: National Space Society.
That's an aggressive schedule. But Sage said
since their plan is being driven from a commercial basis, they
can run their operation differently than government agencies who
don't necessarily operate with the bottom line in mind. "Our
board members and entrepreneurial group certainly have a lot of
experience running commercial entities. We know what we're
doing. We're in a market that we hope to pioneer, and everyone
feels confident that we have what it takes. We certainly have
the passion, vision and enthusiasm to make this happen."
What are the biggest hurdles to overcome in this
project? "If you would have asked me that question a few months
ago," Sage replied, "I would have said a combination of meeting
the right people who could understand the vision and scope of
what it is what we're doing, and raising the initial financing
for the demonstrator. Those hurdles, at this point, really seem
to be taken care of. The more we have our technical teams talk
with investors, the more people understand that we're real and
this isn't some sort of Star Trek giggle factor. Right now, with
the level of due diligence that's been done not only on SBSP
itself, but with ourselves as a commercially viable entity,
we're on the forefront of many people's agenda in terms of how
to move this forward. We see a straight path to making this a
Sage said no new technology is needed for the
demonstrator, which will be a working, small prototype, but
challenges do remain to move forward beyond that. "Obviously,
there are technical challenges because something of this scale
has never been done before. We know we can do wireless power
transmission, as NASA did some pretty significant tests on this
in the 1970s. We know the physics of wireless power
transmission, and how everything should work from geostationary
While the demonstrator won't be of any scale
where energy could be sold commercially, it would be a proof of
"Once we've demonstrated that we can wirelessly
beam power accurately to the ground in a safe, controlled,
effective manner, and in a way that can be metered and
measured," said Sage, "we will have taken a massive step forward
to prove that SBSP is a technology of the future that has the
potential to really fill a gap in the world's energy needs."
Some have equated developing SBSP to what was
accomplished with the Apollo program.
"There are so many positive spinoffs to SBSP as a
game changing foundation of space commerce, that just by
addressing a lot of the challenges that lay ahead, we will be
blazing a trail for many other opportunities for a low earth
orbit economy," Sage added.
A rectenna on Earth collects microwaved energy
from space solar collectors. Image courtesy Mafic Studios.
Space Energy, Inc. recently attended the World
Future Energy Summit and has been overwhelmed with the response.
"We've had discussions with many different
entities, both governmental and private, in the Middle East; Abu
Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Dubai, many areas around
Europe, and many of the world's top investment firms. I don't
think we're going to be short of people that will want to
support us." Sage added that in general, SBSP has strong support
in Washington DC, and that SBSP recently was added to a list of
technologies being studied by the Obama administration.
SBSP has ability to literally change the course
of history, and impact the quality of life for people
everywhere. Sage said this project is an entrepreneurs' dream.
"I speak for our entire team here, we're not just
focused on how much money are we going to make," Sage said.
"We're focused on the fact that this is an inevitable technology
and someone is going to do it. Right now we're the best shot.
We’re also focused on the fact that, according to every scenario
we've analyzed, the world needs space based solar power, and it
needs it soon, as well as the up-scaling of just about every
other source of renewable energy that we can get our hands on."
"Space based solar power will happen whether we
crack cold fusion, or whether we suddenly go to 80% efficiency
on ground based solar power (currently its only at 50%)," Sage
continued. "It has to happen based on the nature on what it is.
With that in mind, I've been willing to put everything I have on
the line to be able to make this work, and that was three years,
ago. To see how far we've come in the past six to eight months
has been amazing."
"This is going to happen."
For more information:
Space Energy, Inc.
Space Energy, Inc.'s interactive flash presentation
Video presentation on Space Based Solar Power by Mafic Studios
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