1 January 2012

Projecting power: The security implications of space-based solar power

Leet W. Wood

Wood is a PhD student in political science at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Space-based solar power is a system for delivering a potentially limitless supply of clean energy to a world desperately searching for alternatives to fossil fuels. However, while the system offers the promise of unlimited, “green” electrical power, it also has immense potential as a geopolitical tool. For example, this new power source could be used to support troops, rebels, or international aid workers virtually anywhere in the world. Space solar power research has recently experienced something of a renaissance, but so far there has been very little discussion about the security implications of this potentially transformative technology. While it will be at least a decade, if not two, before the infrastructure for deploying a full-scale system exists, developing policies and norms—international and national—capable of effectively engaging such a technically and politically complex issue can itself require years of work. Policy makers and political scientists should begin debating the security impacts of space-based solar power now, lest technological development outpace the ability of governments and international institutions to meaningfully assimilate it.