Space Based Solar Power

Space based solar power, also known as space solar power, is different than the normal solar power application. In space based solar power the solar power is collected in space but is collected for use on earth.  The idea behind space based solar power is one that would allow for solar panels to orbit on a satellite, also known as a solar power satellite.

The idea of space based solar power is not a new one, in fact it was first introduced in 1968. Dr. Peter Glaser introduced the idea of space based solar power, thinking that we could use a satellite system of solar collectors and then use a microwave bean to transmit the stored energy to earth for distribution on a national power grid. In 1973 Glaser patented a method for transmitted power via microwaves through long distances. This method is now known as rectenna.

Throughout the 1970’s NASA and the Department of Energy consider the space based solar power idea but it was not until the 1990’s that action was taken. In 1994 the United States Air Force launched the Advanced Photovoltaic Experiment by launching a satellite into a low Earth orbit by a Pegasus rocket. From 1994 on there has been much study and experimentation.

It has been proven that the satellites are a great way to get the solar power but the problem exists in getting the energy back to earth. In 2009 Japan announced that it will orbit solar power satellites that will transmit the power back to earth through laser beams. The plan is to have their first solar power satellite orbiting by 2030.

Space based solar power has a couple of great advantages over solar power collected on earth. First, in space there wouldn’t be a delay in collection because of the sun going down. Instead, in space the solar power can continue to be collected wherever the sun may be in orbit, allowing for the collection of solar power to be ongoing. In addition, the absence of air in space will allow for the collection of solar power to be much more intense.

The idea of space based solar power is ever evolving, with many countries including the United States and Japan having an interest. Once the problem of getting the power back to earth is resolved we will have a virtually unlimited supply of solar power. Space based solar power is most definitely in the future of solar power and is something to keep an eye on.