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Think Higher for Viable Solar: Geosynchronous
Posted on March 22nd, 2017 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & Applications
As good stewards to our environment, we owe it to current and future generations to minimize our impact on the planet supporting all life. Has our choice of a terrestrial platform for solar power generation however, doomed us to inevitable failure of a nonviable approach?
While a recently published article in Forbes entitled Trump Should Make Space-Based Solar Power a National Priority convincingly presented an argument of how public-private partnerships could realize the technology in a modest time frame, it also prompted the thought that we may have already bet on the wrong horse. Is enough shade-free space physically available to have solar meaningfully contribute to society’s energy needs? According to the Institute for Energy Research, solar energy presently only provides five-tenths of 1 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States. Also, since it’s impossible to avoid nighttime and cloudy days, does the added cost of required power storage technology add to the infeasibility?
Space-based solar power generation eliminates the constraints of terrestrial weather and nightfall. Satellites of photovoltaic arrays or optical collectors in geosynchronous orbit could produce and transmit power around the clock. Without having the earth’s atmosphere to contend with, 30% more solar radiation would be available according to reports by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
You may be surprised to know that there has been substantive research on space based solar power since the United States patent number US3781647 A was granted in 1973 to Peter Glaser for a Method and apparatus for converting solar radiation to electrical power. International organizations such as NASA, the DOE, EADS, and IAA have refreshed current thinking over the years as power collection and transmission technologies have matured. The following video from the good folks over at ExplainingTheFuture succinctly describes recent developments:
Space-based solar power is still in its technological infancy having more unknown than known. Overcoming the significant limitations of available space, weather, and night time associated with current terrestrial approaches is certainly encouraging. Whether it’s a governmental or a private institution that steps up in developing a commercially viable solar energy solution, looking to the stars seems more promising to me than on planted firmly one the ground.
Where do you stand when it comes to solar power generation? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.
All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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