04 June 2008

How to harvest solar power? Beam it down from space!

Yet Mehta has another solution for India's chronic electricity shortage, one that does not involve power plants on the ground but instead massive sun-gathering satellites in geosynchronous orbits 22,000 miles in the sky.
The satellites would electromagnetically beam gigawatts of solar energy back to ground-based receivers, where it would then be converted to electricity and transferred to power grids. And because in high Earth orbit, satellites are unaffected by the earth's shadow virtually 365 days a year, the floating power plants could provide round-the-clock clean, renewable electricity.

"The conditions are ripe for something to happen on space solar power," said Charles Miller, a director of the Space Frontier Foundation, a group promoting public access to space. "The environment is perfect for a new start."
Skyrocketing oil prices, a heightened awareness of climate change and worries about natural resource depletion have recently prompted a renewed interest in beaming extraterrestrial energy back to Earth, Miller explained.
And so has a 2007 report released by the Pentagon's National Security Space Office, encouraging the U.S. government to spearhead the development of space power systems.
"A single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous Earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today," the report said.

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