Thursday, November 17, 2011

Orbiting Solar Power Plants Vs. Money and Space Junk

What if we could have satellites gather solar energy then beam it down to Earth?
The plan would be to release first one satellite, followed by a series of solar powered sattelites over the equator. Each would be several miles wide and would be built to collect sunlight 24 hours a day. The energy would then be converted to electricity aboard the craft and sent down to earth via giant antennas or lasers that would feed into power grids all over the world. 
The main obstacle scientists face with this project is funding. It is estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars just to fund the earth to space vehicles that would install the satellites over the equator. Scientist believe the project to be so internationally relevant that they recommend a number of governments, agencies, organizations, universities, and private donors to fund the solar satellites. 
For now, Artemis Innovation Management Solutions LLC, a Californian consultant company, has received a $100,000 contract from NASA for a pilot project that will explore and test the technology on a much smaller scale.
I love that instead of applying some of our government-funded R&D to this incredibly innovative idea, NASA outsourced the pilot program for a fraction of a cost of launching a space shuttle.

Still, with the amount of space junk orbiting Earth, I'm not sure how foolproof an orbiting power plant would be. Hopefully, the future test programs will be keeping their eyes on the skies.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

"It is estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars"

And there's the problem. Seems to be a common trend with a lot of things related to photovoltaics. Awesome, completely uneconomical ideas abound!

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