I've been thinking about space solar power for quite some time, as to how it could be more profitable than ground based solar power. From all the concepts that I have seen the main problem I always see is the conversion of majority of the solar power to microwave energy to beam back to the ground, for re-conversion into electrical energy, and having its only benefit being above the atmosphere to get more consistent solar energy. So, here is the thought I had.
- Why aren't the solar panels placed closer to the sun where the solar flux is MUCH higher? (at 2 million kilometers from the Sun, the solar flux is nearly 10,000X as high as the flux experienced on Earth, meaning large amounts of power can be extracted with smaller panels) Space offers the advantage of being able to place collectors much closer to the energy source, is the main reason for not doing this the issues with redirecting this energy to Earth? Or being able to build solar panels able to handle the massive amount of power?
- Why isn't the solar energy captured from satellites in solar power satellites transferred to the ground optically? (essentially reflecting sunlight to the ground instead of converting it into microwaves) I would imagine the energy would get lost through scattering, but wouldn't the efficiency of sending optical energy down be higher than converting to microwaves? (since its only one conversion process being used)
From the calculations I've done, the main problems seem to be transmitting the power from the satellite close to the sun to the satellite near Earth and ensuring a constant link between the two. I was thinking an optical link (using the satellite close to the Sun to serve as a lens to focus the sunlight on the Earth orbiting satellite) could be used, but I don't know how practical that is since laser communications for deep space still haven't been built. Still, since the solar flux is a lot higher, the initial network could be setup using cubesats launched from the ISS using the Nanoracks system.
Has this been considered by other people? And if it was scrapped why was it scrapped?