American scientist Peter Glaser proposed the idea of using space solar power in 1968. The fast depleting conventional energy resources renewed the interest for trapping the solar power via satellites. Right now the usual alternative energy methods have their own shortcomings. Hydro power plants disrupt ecosystems and human habitats. Minimum rain threatens hydro power. Clouds block the sun and sunlight. Wind can choose not to blow at the desirable speed. Alternative energy plants provide intermittent power supply, thus forcing us to store energy. All these factors increase the complexities of using alternative fuels.
If we are able to harness space based solar power, we can overcome these shortcomings. Recently rising fuel prices and at the same time fast depleting conventional energy sources are drawing the interest of NASA and PENTAGON to conduct further studies in the area of space solar power. If a satellite can be placed at an appropriate height it can remain unaffected by the earth’s shadow and the drifting power plant can beam solar energy to ground based receivers whole year.
A 2007 report released by the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office, encouraged the U.S. government to spearhead the development of space power systems states: “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.”
But the trillion-dollar question is how to make this technologically and economically viable? Four factors can make a big difference:
- The feat can be achieved at considerably low cost.
- Governments and industries realize that the cost and disadvantages of using fossil fuels are far greater than the effort and costs involved in generating solar power from space.
- The cost of conventional energy increases to a great extent.
- We run out of conventional energy sources.
- Read: Space-Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security