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Hawaiian space solar power...it's like energy from the sky!

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

So this is a snipet from a very cool article in one of the Wired blogs.  I think my favorite part is where Paul Rancatore (former Congressman in Florida) says, "Don’t be focused on drilling down, focus on drilling up."  Solar in space could be down right awesome!

 

The key to our energy future may be in space. A new long-range energy transmission experiment opens the possibility of sending solar energy from space to earth.

Former NASA executive and physicist John Mankins captured solar energy from a mountain top in Maui and beamed it 92 miles to the main island of Hawaii.


Tonight at 10 pm Discovery Channel will air an episode of Project Earth on the recent first-of-its-kind experiment. This long range demonstration of wireless power transmission was also a key step toward space-based solar power satellites. The team also beamed the power almost 100 times farther than NASA's major 1970's power transmission in the Mojave Desert in California.


Although the amount of power sent, 20 watts, is barely enough to power a small compact fluorescent light bulb, and most of it was lost in transmission, the system was limited by the budget not the physics. If they had been able to afford more solar panels, more phased array transmitters and a better receivers (the one they had could only receive in the horizontal direction), Mankins claims they could do much better-- possibly up to 64%  efficiency.

 

[Read the rest over at Wired Magazine]

post #2 of 7

Yeah space-based solar is a cool concept.  I haven't seen any projections about cost, which is the most important factor.  And maintenance of the equipment in space would be a serious challenge.

 

The article says full scale production is 10-15 years off.  I think that's really optimistic.  Japan is pursuing space-based solar quite seriously, and last I saw they're not planning on having an operational setup ready until 2030.

 

Something to keep an eye on though.

post #3 of 7

 wow, nice!  does better proximity to the sun make space solar power more efficient or something?  even though, in relative terms, it's basically equidistant to being on earth because the sun is so faaaaaaaaar away?

post #4 of 7

Well the main advantage is that in space, there's no clouds.  You would get constant energy from the sun during the daytime.  There's also no scattering of photons in the atmosphere to worry about, so you end up getting about ten times the solar energy per unit area. 

 

You also have problems with radiation degrading the solar cells and little meteroids that would burn up in the atmosphere can damage them if they're in orbit.  So it's a tricky technology to make work.

post #5 of 7

 also...how about the energy required to float solar receptors in space?  and then transport captured solar energy back to earth?  wonder how effective the technology would actually be...  probably would need mass quantity to make it worthwhile.

post #6 of 7

If you give the equipment the appropriate tangential speed initially, it can orbit without any additional energy required just like satellites do.  And if you do it at the appropriate distance from the Earth, it can have a geosynchronous orbit.

 

I don't know about losses due to transmitting the energy down to the surface, but we're definitely talking about very large series of panels, and I'm sure it would be pretty negligible in comparison to the energy produced.

post #7 of 7

 sounds ideal!!!  lets hope whomever ends up in the white house puts resources into developing these and other alternative energies.....(obama/biden!!! sorry to interject politics here....)

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