Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In The News (Space Solar Power Again)

Check out this article regarding the possibility of using space-based photovoltaics to supply energy to forward-deployed military forces.

Back in my article in Parameters in 2006 I recommended military investment in renewable energy technology as an aid to logistics efforts for forces deployed overseas, particularly where electricity supplies are inadequate or unreliable:
One advantage is the potential that renewable sources offer for distributed power. Given the prospect that US forces will increasingly be based in less-developed regions like the Middle East, Central Asia, and even sub-Saharan Africa, not being dependent on local power grids can be an advantage . . . At the same time, the unique needs of military programs make them a logical starting point for at least some research in this area. Running information-age campaigns with industrial-age logistical systems is already problematic, and renewable energy sources or conservation technologies might provide a partial solution.
I have to admit, though, that this is one approach I didn't expect to see considered. I think there's plenty of reason to be skeptical about space-based solar power production (given launch costs, construction headaches, the hazards of an orbital environment, and the fact that improvements in photovoltaic tech translate to the Earth-based production with which space-based approaches must compete), but this may be one area where the usual economic considerations don't apply quite so much. Still, all things considered, I have to see this idea as a comparative longshot.

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