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Why Space Solar Will Be Way More Than 2.5% of a Trillion-Dollar Space Economy

A recent CITI GPS report (LINK) predicted the space industry will exceed $1T in annual sales by 2040. As part of that industry, space based solar is expected to generate $23B in annual sales. This is large, but a small fraction of total expected global energy sales in 2040.

We think it can be much more.

The main driver for this is dramatic and compounding reduction in launch costs. SpaceX estimates that these costs can approach $10/kg, where CITI used a range of $30 to $300/kg.

For space solar, the CITI study emphasized the economics of power generation driving adoption, with the bulk of energy production growth continuing to come from terrestrial solar and other technologies.

In addition to the market identified in the report, we see additional forces leading to a larger market share by 2040. Space based solar is not only a low cost energy source, it also reduces the costs of transmission, storage, and demand management required for terrestrial renewables. By its nature, it will be a continental scale power solution able to deliver power where it is needed, when it is needed, and with some of the lowest environmental impacts of any power source.

  1. Because it is available 24 hours a day and can act as a base load, space based solar power reduces the need for energy storage and demand management. This addresses daily and seasonal variations from intermittent renewables like wind and terrestrial solar. The investment for both storage and smart grid are expected to exceed $500 billion by 2040 [1].

  2. Because a solar power satellite can beam power anywhere, it reduces the need for long distance transmission lines to move power from where it is generated to where it is needed. This investment is expected to exceed $500 billion by 2040 [1].

  1. Space based solar power can be the lowest land impact energy source. It requires less land than other renewables while rivaling the land use for legacy power sources. This article from Bloomberg (LINK) highlighted that to power a 100W device 24 hours a day, the land use is

  • 200 square meters for hydro;

  • 37 meters for wind;

  • 14 square meters for terrestrial solar;

  • <1 square meter for space based solar (estimated);

  • 0.8 square meter for coal;

  • 0.3 square meter for nuclear; and

  • 0.1 square meter for natural gas.

Space based solar addresses many challenges in the transition to renewables improving their value while also

  • reducing the total cost to deliver electricity to end users;

  • reducing investment required for transitioning to renewables;

  • reducing system operations and maintenance costs;

  • improving power availability; and

  • minimizing environmental impact.

These will all accelerate the adoption and growth of space based solar power.


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