Almost two years ago, I started to put space solar power into perspective in terms of how important this will be to assuring America’s energy security. In the May 4, 2009, issue of The Space Review, I published the essay, The Vital Need for America to Develop Space Solar Power. (A print version, with a couple of minor changes, is available on my web site here.) This essay brought together several pro-human spacefaring and American energy security arguments I have raised through this blog and other recent publications available on my web site. To briefly summarize:
- America’s future energy security is at risk because insufficient emphasis has been placed on developing new sustainable energy supplies to replace oil, coal, and natural gas as these resources are depleted in the coming decades. Energy scarcity is a very real possibility that should not be easily dismissed.
- Current nuclear fission energy and terrestrial renewable energy sources (hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, ground solar energy, and land biomass converted fuels) lack the capacity, even under optimistic conditions, to meet growing U.S. energy needs—they are even inadequate to meet current U.S. needs. Public expectations that such green energy sources will easily replace oil, coal, and natural gas are creating a false sense of future American energy security that will only increase the potential of future energy scarcity.
- To provide baseload, dispatchable electrical power generation, space solar power is the only large-scale electrical power generation option, not currently being pursued, that is ready for commercial engineering development. The two primary alternatives–methane hydrates and advanced nuclear energy (e.g., fusion)–are not yet ready for commercial engineering development.
- A well-reasoned and executable U.S. energy policy must squarely address the need to aggressively develop new U.S. sustainable energy sources to avoid potential energy scarcity. A key element of the execution of this policy should be to start the commercial development of space solar power(SSP) as a hedge against potential future national energy scarcity.
The American pro-human spacefaring community should seize upon these circumstances to advocate for U.S. Government policy support for both the start of the commercial development of SSP. Although there is a reasonable expectation that much of the deployment and servicing of SSP platforms will be undertaken robotically, substantial human involvement will still be required. Concurrent with the development of SSP will be the need to advance American spacefarer capabilities throughout the Earth-Moon frontier. Starting the commercial development of SSP as a hedge against future energy scarcity and advancing American human spacefaring capabilities become linked with a synergy that benefits America both by increasing its future energy security and starting its transformation into a true spacefaring nation. Inaction or the weak advocacy by the American pro-human spacefaring community in favor of the commercial development of SSP is inexcusable!