New initiative looks to space for solar energy

05. November 2010 | Research & Development | By:  Becky Stuart

An U.S.-India initiative says it is seeking to ease the global energy crisis by harvesting solar power from space.

Space

Could space help solve our "energy crisis"? Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA.

The U.S. National Space Society has joined forces with India's eleventh President, Dr. A.P.J. Kalam under the The Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative, in order to establish a bilateral space solar power program.

The goal, explains the initiative, is to solve what it says is the global energy, carbon and U.S.’s next generation job crises by obtaining solar energy from space.

It states that world electricity demand is projected to increase by 87 percent by the year 2035, and that renewable power generation systems - water, wind, solar, geothermal, etc. - will only be able to meet 23 percent.

Dr. A.P.J. Kalam comments: “By 2050, even if we use every available energy resource we have - clean and dirty, conventional and alternative, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, coal, oil, and gas - the world will fall short of the energy we need.”

According to the initiative, there is seven times more energy in space per unit area in comparison to the earth. Harvesting energy there, it says, also removes the need for expensive energy storage.

It goes on to say that the benefits include an almost unlimited source of energy - the sun reportedly produces one to 10 trillion times the amount of energy currently used by humanity - it is environmentally benign and almost no carbon dioxide is produced.

Furthermore, the initiative says India and the U.S. could become “the world’s largest energy exporters”, since space solar power can be sold and beamed to any nation. It adds that energy wars, like the ones in Iraq, could also be avoided.

The next step is a bilateral conference, scheduled to be held in Alabama, the U.S. next May. Around 15 – 25 Indian and a “similar number” of American experts are expected to attend.

Japan got there first

The idea of harvesting solar power from space is not a new one. Indeed, it has been reported that space-based solar power was introduced to earth back in 1968.

Moreover, Japan started a program for developing a Space Solar Power System in 1998, which continues to the present day. According to reports, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is looking to install a one gigawatt photovoltaics power station in space by 2030.


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