Front Insert
Praise for Sun Power. . .

"We in this country are too prone to deal with the issues facing us only after the problem has reached the crisis stage.... I believe that Sun Power will help to show that energy from space is a realistic proposal and that it has great commercial potential."

Chris Kraft
Former director, Johnson Space Center

"The time is again right to bring this very important energy option to the attention of the American public."

Joseph P. Allen
Space Shuttle astronaut

"The contents of this book should be of interest to the non technical reader.... Nansen presents the rationale for solar power satellites in an understandable form devoid of the usual technical jargon to make the subject accessible to the public."

Dr. Peter E. Glaser
Inventor of the solar power satellite concept

"This is a timely subject for many reasons: the growing realization of the need for energy, the enhanced environmental consciousness, and the strong . . . governmental interest in finding appropriate tasks for the defense industrial infrastructure."

Gregg E. Maryniak
Director, International Space Power Program
International Space University

"Finally, the world can raise its hopes for a renewable, nonpolluting energy source. Sun Power should come . . . as good news after what has been a dismal public record on power issues. As a writer who has covered power issues for two daily newspapers, I consider this an opportune time for Sun Power to be published."

Patrick Moser
Independent consultant
Formerly with the Tri-Cities Herald

Chapter 1
Challenge for the Twenty-First Century

The sun. Worshipped by ancient people as the basis of all life, rising in glory each morning, climbing to the apex of the sky brilliant in its blinding white radiance‹a seething mass of gases. An atomic furnace radiating energy into the great void of space‹ year after year for billions of years.

The earth. A blue-and-white swirl of beauty in the cold universe and yet bathed in the sun's life-giving light since its beginning. Teeming with untold billions of humans striving for a better life and yet hurtling toward destruction in that mad quest.

What new wonders can the sun hold in store for us in the next century? What will the world be like in the twenty-first century? Will America be a prosperous, dynamic nation or will our children's children look to us and ask, "What happened to our world?"

Chapter 2
Politics and Solar Power Satellites

I first heard of solar power satellites one day in 1973. I was back in Seattle after working in New Orleans as an engineering manager for Boeing on the Saturn/Apollo lunar landing program and Space Shuttle definition studies. When I walked into the office one morning my secretary greeted me with a big smile and said, "Congratulations on your new job."

My only response was a surprised, 'What new job? I'm working on the space task force."

"Didn't you hear the public address announcement this morning? You've been appointed manager of the new Design- to-Cost Laboratory, effective today."

I was stunned. I was out of the space business. I stared at her without being able to say a word and headed for the office of the company's president.

Chapter 3
Our Energy Heritage

The sun is a seething mass of gases‹a giant nuclear fusion reactor. An atomic furnace bathing the earth with its life-giving energy. Through the ages the earth has gathered the energy, turning some back into the void of space, converting some into the life that sets our planet apart from the others in our solar system. Some was gradually stored in the mantle of the earth's surface, some continuously stirred the fluids and gases that cover its surface. Throughout time it has been the source of all our energy.

What has it meant to us in the past? The past is important, because it can teach us the lessons that allow us to progress into the future and unravel its secrets with knowledge and understanding.

Chapter 4
The Great Energy Crisis

In 1973 the United States was at the peak of its economic development. It was the highest creditor nation, it had the highest per- capita gross domestic product, and real income for the average worker was at its maximum. Then Saudi Arabia led the Arab countries and other OPEC nations in the 1973-74 oil embargo. Our comfortable, energy-rich world was suddenly powerless. We waited in gas lines, reviling the oil companies. We cursed the Arabs and demanded that the government "do something." It was a dramatic start to the current energy crisis, which has now stretched over two decades.

Chapter 5
Criteria For A New Energy Source

In the early 1970s, the United States was riding the wave of abundant wealth‹wealth provided by low-cost energy. Then came the OPEC oil embargo. The resulting energy crisis is now two decades old. America has fallen from its economic pinnacle and has suffered the woes of recession. Real income has dropped as the United States has gone from being the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation. It has lost domestic market share in all 26 major industries, per-capita gross domestic product has dropped from first to tenth position, and the national debt has soared to $5 trillion.

Ronald E. Bates of the Chicago Tribune vividly characterized the situation as "a war of economic survival . . . and the US is losing."

Chapter 6
Exploring the Options

The energy crisis initiated by the oil embargo of 1973-74 led to the investigation of many potential alternative energy sources. Some were explored by the energy-generating companies‹both privately and publicly owned‹and some were proposed by individuals. Others were under the direction of developmental agencies. The federal government combined their efforts within the Department of Energy, which was formed by merging several governmental agencies. During the ensuing years of the 1970s the activity level was very high, but with the breakdown of the oil cartel the urgency was reduced and much of the activity has returned to business as usual. However, a great deal of basic knowledge was generated and many ideas were suggested. Let's review what was considered at the time and what transpired in the meantime.

Chapter 7
Electricity: The Energy Form of the Future

Since the beginning of man's experience on this earth, he has stood in wonder and fear as lightning laced the sky and thunder drove the terror of the unknown into his soul. What was this fearsome force that could make night like day, strike great trees asunder, burn forests, and occasionally strike a victim dead in its path? The ancients attributed this frightening phenomena to the wrath of their gods. It was not until the eighteenth century when Benjamin Franklin conducted his famous experiments that fact started to find its way into the mystery of lightning.

For most people at that time electricity still carried that strange mysticism. What good could it be? What could it be used for? It was a scientific curiosity for many years, but after the start of the nineteenth century our comprehension of its potential began to grow rapidly.

Chapter 8
Our Situation Today

I have discussed the challenge we face as we prepare to enter the twenty-first century. I have told you about the background of solar power satellites and explored our energy heritage. I have reviewed the impact of the 1973-74 energy crisis and what it has done to our country and the world. I have measured the capability of the known energy options against a set of criteria for the future and found there was only one source that has the potential to pass all the tests. So what is the next step? To answer that question it will be useful to look at the energy situation as it exists today.

The profile of United States energy use falls into two major energy segments. One is electric energy and the other the direct use of energy for heating and transportation. Nearly all of the latter is furnished by fossil fuels: oil, natural gas, and coal. However, it is the electricity generation that is important to the future as we look to the development of new energy sources.

Chapter 9
A Call to Action for the United States

The question still remains: "What should we do now?"

My answer to that question is clear and unequivocal. The United States should proceed immediate!), with all possible speed, to develop and deploy the solar power satellite energy system as the energy source for the twenty-first century.

The first half of this book addressed the importance of energy to the development of civilization and the contribution made by each source. Of particular importance was the economic growth associated with the nations that first made use of each new energy source. It also identified solar power satellites as the energy system for the future. The remainder of the book addresses why and how we, as a nation, should go about developing solar power satellites.

Chapter 10
The Path to Two-Cent Power

The subject of economics is probably one of the most discussed and controversial subjects known to man. This is true because every human being on earth today is a practicing economist with their own ideas and views. There are very few decisions we make in our daily lives which do not consider cost to some degree, even if it involves bartering instead of money. In its simplest form, it is a question of whether we have enough money in our pocket to buy today's newspaper, or in a more fundamental society, whether an exchange of a bunch of bananas is worth a t-shirt. As we move up the scale of economic decisions, the choice of personal transportation stands out‹do we buy a new car, and if so, which one? Or, for a laborer in Beijing, China, can he afford to buy a bicycle. In India, it may simply be a decision to buy a new pair of sandals.

Chapter 11
Costs are Based on Sound Estimates

The cost of electricity generated by solar power satellites compared to coal reaches to the heart of the reason to develop solar power satellites. We cannot ignore the immense economic benefits, not to mention the environmental necessity to stop polluting the atmosphere and cease further accumulation of deadly wastes from nuclear power plants.

The real issue is the validity of the cost estimates that make up the basis for these cost comparisons. Even though estimating is part fact and part guesswork the estimates must be close to reality or the great economic advantage is lost and the system will not be widely deployed. Many factors go into making cost estimates, including related experience and the quantity of parts being manufactured. When a new venture is being developed it is often impossible to compare everything to previous experience, but by comparing some we are able to predict the remainder from similar experiences of the past.

Chapter 12
Features of the Satellite System

Let me take you on a tour of a solar power satellite. We'll look at one as defined for the Department of Energy in the late 1970s. It was designed to provide 5,000 megawatts of electrical power to the earth, which is equal to five typical nuclear power plants. As we make the tour I will discuss how technology has evolved over the intervening years and how the new models will change in the future. One change will likely be a reduction in size to 1,000 megawatts capacity to better match utility needs.

As we approach the satellite we see a huge rectangular array of solar cells stretching into the distance, bathed in dazzling sunlight. A shining jewel in the blackness of space. Its frame is hidden in the shadow of the solar array, and at one end is a giant flat disk, textured with millions of small rectangular slots to focus the energy streaming toward the earth 22,300 miles below.

Chapter 13
Features of the Energy Beam

The miracle of the solar power satellite energy system is built around the concept of transmitting huge amounts of energy over thousands of miles without the use of wires. Wireless power transmission has been the dream of many people, but today technology is making it happen. The energy beam has no moving parts, it cannot be seen, it will pass effortlessly through the atmosphere and clouds, it will be very large to keep the energy density low, it will be safe, it will be environmentally clean, and it will be an efficient transmitter of energy.

Chapter 14
A Development Plan

How do we go about creating the fourth era of energy‹at the moment merely a vision? How do we accomplish such an enormous task? What is the first step? The Department of Energy, the government agency responsible for developing new energy systems, abandoned the idea in 1980 and has been unwilling to reevaluate the concept since. Their position was made clear in a letter I received in February of 1995 from a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy in response to a letter I sent to the Secretary of Energy. I had urged the Department of Energy to reevaluate the solar power satellite concept in light of the major advances that have been made over the years since 1980 and to establish a program office to coordinate with other interested government and commercial organizations. The DOE's letter stated:

For over two decades, the Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor agencies have supported various technologies that could increase domestic contributions toward our nation's energy needs. Among the energy concepts investigated and terminated were ocean thermal systems, wave energy systems, ocean

and river current systems, solar ponds, solar heated wind towers and, as you point out, space solar systems.

All of the foregoing systems are technically feasible. However, as with most research investments, choices are necessary. Typically, options have been eliminated because energy costs were judged to be high, energy contributions were likely to be limited to only a few regions, reliability appeared to be low, estimated development costs were high, or other risks to commercial success were projected.

In line with the President's program to reduce federal spending, the Department is developing plans to reduce program costs by more that $10 billion over the next five years. Given these commitments, opportunities for initiating new programs are limited and we are generally not able to offer encouragement for federal funding for space power. Of course, where reasons are compelling, we will strive to accommodate. However, for the most part, it will be necessary to complete or terminate programs where possible and to maximize returns from investments in continuing programs.

Chapter 15
The New Frontier

It is the unique nature of humanity to try and reach beyond ourselves, to strive for knowledge we do not have, and to make our own mark on the world that has led to the incredible expansion of humankind's dominance of this world in a time span that is but a blink of an eye in relationship to the age of creation. No other creatures on earth have these characteristics. By controlling our environment, we humans have made it possible to live nearly anyplace we desire. We do not change our ability to survive in different environments; we simply go beyond ourselves and make the environment suitable to survive. With the subjugation of energy to our will, we have been able to greatly multiply our ability and reach out to ever more distant horizons.

As we look back in history, we find that humanity is always searching for a new frontier to explore and develop. If we do not find one we become restless and try to take one from our neighbor, which often results in war.

Back Cover

We are reaching the bottom of the well. The oil shortages of the 1970s were our wake-up call, but we've fallen back into apathetic slumber. The world is fast approaching a crisis of global proportions when our comfortable lives will be plunged into darkness as the last drop of oil is sucked from the ground. Our planet is choking on the deadly by-products of our energy hunger‹foul air, radiation poisoning, oil-slicked waters, and acid rain.

Sun Power offers a vision of hope and a plan to begin the long journey to energy independence and global healing within the next ten years.

In this startling new book, aerospace visionary Ralph Nansen reveals a grand but elegant solution to the problems plaguing our energy-hungry world. A plan for capturing the vast power of our sun in space, where the sun shines 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. A plan using solar power satellites to provide abundant, low-cost, nonpolluting electric energy for all humanity for as long as the sun shines. This book will change how we look at energy and will ultimately benefit every person on the earth.

Ralph Nansen has been involved in space engineering for over 35 years. He participated in the Saturn/Apollo program, the Space Shuttle development, and led the Boeing team that developed the overall concept of solar power satellites under the auspices of the Department of Energy and NASA.

Mr. Nansen has testified before Congress, spoken globally about solar power satellites, and published many articles on the subject.


Wednesday, 31-Dec-1969 18:00:00 CST