By Lin Smith
June 30, 2013—What is Space Based Solar Power? Spaced Based Solar Power was first proposed in 1968 by Dr. Peter Glaser. It means collecting solar power for use on Earth–but from solar panels launched into space by solar powered satellites. In 1968, Dr. Glaser’s dream of getting solar power from a space satellite was treated by his fellow scientists as a pipe dream, the world was not ready to fund a project that sounded like science fiction, even though he was granted a U.S. patent for the solar stations in 1973. Today, John Mankins, a former NASA engineer, heads the program in the U.S. His goal–provide clean energy to every person on Earth for less than the cost of current energy sources. In 2012 NASA approved funding for continued research of the solar space project.
Mankins explains how the space panels would work, “After the system effectively transforms the solar energy into microwaves, its Earth-facing side would then transmit the low intensity, low frequency waves toward Earth.” The beam of solar energy would travel through space to a target on the ground where there would be antennas within a six square mile area, putting the power through transformers in power plants. Power stations would transfer the solar rays into usable electricity.
The space solar panels are based on nature, the flower, which uses its pedals to collect solar energy. The mirrors of the solar compound would act as petals, directing solar power to the system’s photovoltaic modules (solar panels), which are composed of many PV cells, like the cells of the pedal. The panels would work like the solar panels on the ground, but would be suspended in space! The transmission of energy to Earth would have very little environmental impact, making it a major factor in lowering greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
The solar platforms would be built by sending already assembled solar panels into space and putting them together by robots. (Yes, bringing robots into the mix does sound like science fiction, but we do have the technology to carry it out!) Reportedly, the construction and transportation of the stations would be less expensive than constructing the solar farms on Earth.
The sun produces a trillion times more energy than we need here on Earth. The longevity of the sun, 4 to 5 billion years, would provide our planet with an endless amount of power, making it our largest source of energy and would supply all our planet’s needs!
The space modules can also power our vehicles, using the electricity provided by the Space Based Solar system. As the National Space Society puts it, “It doesn’t help to remove fossil fuels from cars (gas) if you just turn around and use fossil fuels again to generate the electricity to power those vehicles. Space solar power can provide the needed clean power for any future electric transportation.”
“The first step is to build the solar station and test it here on Earth,” Mankins explains. “Next, build half a dozen and test them in orbit. It’s like any kind of production curve problem. You want to get to the point where you can make hundreds of thousands of these things as though they were PCs or automobiles. But it takes time to build up to that point. At each stage we need to increase the scale and the fidelity of the demonstration. First on Earth, then in low Earth orbit, then in high Earth orbit, first with one, then with ten, and then with hundreds.”
Beam that solar energy on down!
- National Space Society Will Pitch Space-based Solar Power To G8 Nations (cleantechnica.com)
- [Earth4Energy.com] Solar Space Power (psjga4tl.wordpress.com)