On the site of The Independent we found the following article about a project to build a 100 square kilometer solar farm in the Sahara. Costs: 8 billion pound sterling. The produced electricity will be exported to Europe though a sub-marine cable from Tunisia to Italy.
100 square kilometers sounds big, though it is just 10 by 10 kilometers (not to say that the proposed solar farm is actually a square, just to give a proper indication of the size). For comparison the city of Amsterdam just covers about 219 square kilometers.
Nevertheless, the intention is to supply electricity to at least 2.5 million UK households as well other EU residents.
Deserts are ideal places for solar farms. First, deserts are generally cloudless and are often sparsely populated. And what else could you do in such a desolated place?
The point of this post is, however, to demonstrate that space-based solar power or SBSP as a way to provide energy to Earth is out-dated. SBSP was proposed back in the 1960s and 1970s when solar power technology was not very efficient, but since then technology has made a huge progress.
Around the planet we can find deserts where solar farms can be erected. And we only need a small portion of our deserts to produce enough power to supply global demand.
Another challenge for space-based solar power is the fact that the original ideas of Peter Glaser and Gerard O’Neill intended to use microwave radiation to transmit power to Earth. Regardless of the real dangers of this method, the general population is wary when it comes to “radiation”. So public support for SBSP would be dubious, and unlike some people within the space movement I do not believe that the masses can be “educated” through popular sciences shows. Not only because such shows have a limited audience, strong opponents of SBSP would decry it as “propaganda”.
Desert-based solar power avoids this whole problem, and is more likely to be accepted by the general public. Hence the space movement should abandon space-based solar power as the justification of space colonization.