Space-Based Solar Power: A Technical, Economic, and Operational Assessment

Space-Based Solar Power: A Technical, Economic, and Operational Assessment
Space-Based Solar Power: A Technical, Economic, and Operational Assessment
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With growing international awareness of energy security challenges, the promise of space-based solar power for clean and unlimited energy for all humankind is certainly appealing. While significant progress continues in the enabling technologies of such systems, is there compelling evidence that space-based solar power systems will provide the best energy solution? How does the Army’s current approach to incorporating a diverse portfolio of renewable energy sources in distributed locations compare to the potential of enterprise ventures that beam energy from solar collectors in space? For over 4 decades, many credible organizations in government and industry have explored the concept of space-based solar power, but their serious studies often conclude that such systems remain on the future horizon, usually at least 10 years away from practical application. While space-based solar power systems may be technically feasible, the author believes there is no compelling evidence that such systems will be economically or operationally competitive with terrestrial power generation systems in use or in development. However, he does find that there may be some utility in the limited application of space-based solar power to enable operations in remote and forward operating locations.

This monograph has three main sections: 1) Technical Assessment introduces the basic concept of space-based solar power (SBSP), and summarizes the evolution of the concept’s development while examining the critical technologies required for successful development of the space, ground, and support elements of this system;  2) Economic Assessment examines SBSP systems, as well as current international efforts in this field; and 3) Operational Assessment explores the strategic consideration for SBSP system within the general context of national space operations.  This work focuses on the Army’s renewable energy plans and case study projects through 2025 by using solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy generation technologies to determine their efficiency, economic effectiveness, and technical development feasibility.

About the Author:

JEFFREY L. CATON is President of Kepler Strategies, LLC, Carlisle, PA, a veteran-owned small business specializing in national security, cyberspace theory, and aerospace technology. He is also an Intermittent Professor of Program Management with Defense Acquisition University. From 2007 to 2012, Mr. Caton served on the U.S. Army War College faculty, including as Associate Professor of Cyberspace Operations and Defense Transformation Chair. Over the past 5 years, he has presented lectures on cyberspace and space issues related to international security in the United States, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Kazakhstan, supporting programs such as the Partnership for Peace Consortium and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence. Mr. Caton’s current work includes research on cyberspace and space issues as part of the External Research Associates Program of the Strategic Studies Institute as well as serving as a facilitator for Combined/Joint Land Force Component Commander courses at the Center for Strategic Leadership and Development. He served 28 years in the U.S. Air Force in engineering, space operations, joint operations, and foreign military sales, including command at the squadron and group level. Mr. Caton holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the Air War College.

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Renewable energy developers and suppliers as well as American citizens interested in research of the Army’s research projects on renewable energy would benefit from this resource. Policymakers, analysts, and military leaders may be interested in this work as the implementation may have an impact on the Federal budget.

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Defense Dept., Army, Strategic Studies Institute; and Army War College
  • Caton, Jeffery L.
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Key Phrases:
  • Assessment of Space Based Solar Power
  • Solar Power
  • Technical, Economic, and Operational Assessment
  • Satellite solar power stations
  • Renewable energy sources, United States
  • Energy security
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