Space-Based Solar: Around-The-Clock Power?

Aerospace engineers in Scotland have hit on a novel way to get around one of the main drawbacks of solar power — its inconsistency.

Although large volumes of energy are being created worldwide thanks to solar, the energy is significantly affected by changes in the weather, while at night, of course, no power can be generated.


image via Strathclyde University

To overcome these problems, researchers at Strathclyde University are working with colleagues in Europe, Japan and the U.S. to put solar power stations into orbit.

A satellite solar power facility would be able to avoid the vagaries of the weather. According to the research team it would send the energy generated to earth in the form of microwaves or lasers.

According to Massimiliano Vasile, who is heading the research, the technology could be used in disaster scenarios where power is scarce on the ground. Energy could be beamed straight down from the satellite, Vasile said.

“Space provides a fantastic source for collecting solar power and we have the advantage of being able to gather it regardless of the time of the day or indeed the weather conditions,” Vasile said in a statement. “By using either microwaves or lasers we would be able to beam the energy back down to earth, directly to specific areas. This would provide a reliable, quality source of energy and would remove the need for storing energy coming from renewable sources on ground as it would provide a constant delivery of solar energy.”

Vasile added: “Initially, smaller satellites will be able to generate enough energy for a small village but we have the aim, and indeed the technology available, to one day put a large enough structure in space that could gather energy that would be capable of powering a large city.”

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.

1 Comment

  • Reply June 1, 2012

    Alex Lester

    This is a nice idea, however I wonder what issues will occur with the means to deliver power to Earth.  Seems like it would be dangerous or could be used as a weapon.

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