Desert based solar power has energy utilization of 25% versus 15% for average solar power in Europe. Space based solar power can be considered To have 130% of earth based solar power utilization. There is more solar insolation in space and it is available at all times. However, microwave or laser transmission reduces the power delivered from space in half to about 65%. Stratosphere based solar power can 50% utilization with solar tracking and 40% without tracking.
StratoSolar PV reduces the average cost of current PV electricity by a factor of three. In energy, a factor of three is of enormous consequence. Most energy technologies have no technological road-map that will reduce their costs. Almost all technologies are increasing in cost. With fossil fuels, the fuel costs are volatile and can temporarily drop, but the trend is inevitably to higher costs. StratoSolar’s tripling of average PV effectiveness makes today’s PV technology immediately viable and cost effective without subsidy. In addition, StratoSolar PV technology avoids other costs associated with the intermittent nature of both wind and solar power. It does not need spinning backup generation. It does not need massive re-engineering of the electricity grid to transport electricity thousands of kilometers from where it is abundant to where it is needed. At the current small scale of PV deployment these issues are ignored. However, as wind power demonstrates, when an intermittent energy source approaches 20% of the grid the additional costs are high, matching or exceeding the cost of generation. Even if PV electricity generation were cost competitive today, the financial costs and risks associated with these two constraints (indeterminacy and geography) would severely limit the deployment of ground-based PV. In addition, StratoSolar PV is an affordable alternative for northern cloudy locations like Germany and Japan where PV is unlikely to ever be viable without subsidy.
Stratosolar uses a permanent high altitude platform could serve many additional purposes. Listed below are some examples of possible uses.
* Communications and observation platform
* Cell phone tower, data networks
* Radar for weather, commercial, military
* Science: astronomy, meteorology, earth science
* Laser communications network
The StratoSolar PV system has a reasonable operating cost mostly because the solar PV array (which dominates PV cost)has a reasonable capital cost and a high utilization, with a resulting reasonable cost of electricity. The reasons for this are:
* The PV panels are exposed to 1.5 to 3.5X the solar energy of ground-based PV panels
* This means each square meter of PV panel gathers 1.5 to 3.5X the energy of ground-based PV panels
* The PV array uses no land. No land cost, or site development cost.
* The PV array support structure uses very little material due to light structural loads.
* All construction materials are standard, off the shelf, and low cost
* The PV panels are lower cost than ground-based PV panels due to reduced panel packaging cost
* The PV panels are higher efficiency than ground-based PV panels due to lower operating temperature and reduced reflection losses.
The extra capital costs incurred by the StratoSolar approach are the tether/HV cable, the winch, the gasbags and the hydrogen they contain. Adding everything up the capital cost of a StratoSolar plant in dollars per peak Watt ($/Wp) is the same as or lower than the same plant on the ground. (peak Watts is the standard way of defining the power output of PV panels) However the StratoSolar plant captures substantially more energy and generates substantially more kilo Watt hours (kWh) of electricity. Depending on geographic location the overall advantage in the cost of electricity generated in $/kWh over ground-based PV can exceed 3X
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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