A laser beaming energy to earth isn’t as far fetched as it sounds. Japan, at the forefront of technology, has developed space saving vertical parking lots, is bringing us a solar powered Toyota Prius and their newest venture involves putting a light-absorbing panel into orbit for unlimited solar power. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has already invested millions into a prototype Space Solar Power System (SSPS) which will be up and running by 2030.
The idea of sending photovoltaic panels into orbit is not a new one, and was thrown around at NASA as early as the 1970′s, but the estimated $1 trillion cost of building such a device put things on hold at the time. In today’s world, with cheaper solar paneling and newer technologies available, a massive solar power system orbiting the earth is a realistic endeavor. Various countries, including India, China, Russia and the U.S, are optimistic about harvesting energy through solar panels that would float 22,000 miles up in orbit.
Varied degrees of sunlight, clouds, long hours of darkness and limited space are just a few of the obstacles that current solar panels are dealing with. Space solar panels will have other issues to overcome (including repair work, for example), but with constant access to light for absorption, the energy generated by one of these impressive space panels is so efficient that it could power 500,000 homes for a year!
In fact the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office 2007 report states that “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.” The potential of light absorbtion in space is huge.
With a technology that provides more electricity than all of the earth’s power sources combined, the race is on to see which country will eventually be exporting electricity to the rest of the world. Fuel shortages and air pollution may be a thing of the past in less than 50 years if Space Solar Power Systems function as planned.