Space-based Renewable Energy
By David Saharkhiz
Solar energy directly from the source? Clean, non-polluting, nearly limitless, and renewable energy - sound too good to be true?
In the coming decades, this pipe dream may just become a reality. solar panels on Earth are a clean and moderately efficient means of collecting solar power. But atmospheric turbulence, combined with localized weather and climatic factors, make earth-based solar powers only efficent to a degree. A space-based solar station would function at optimal capacity nearly all of the time, and would simply have to beam the energy to earth via radio waves to harvest clean, renewable energy at efficiency ratings previously unheard of.
Several challenges must first be addressed, however.
First, it's apparent that the cost of launching and assembling the materials in space is going to be an issue for the profitability for the company that undertakes this momentous task. Advances in launch
technology combined with the impending privitization of the space-faring industry should reduce launch costs per kilogram by as much as a factor of 5 in the coming century, and a large-scale solar power plant in space could become a reality.
The second major consideration is the cost of assembling such a structure in space, but this can be addressed by advancements in robotics and teleoperation, which could make a the large-scale construction of a kilometer-sized object in space a much more economically feasible undertaking.
Time will tell if such a project ever gets off the ground, but we can only hope that as our oil resources dwindle and technology advances, this option will become more affordable and the world can benefit from a clean, steady stream of energy directly from the sun.
About the Author
David Saharkhiz is a contributor to various website publications related to solar panels.