A study group of the International Academy of Astronautics in Paris this week has published a study which notes that in as little as 30 years we could be meeting our global power needs by harvesting the sun's solar energy with satellites. This group notes that with seed money from the government, orbiting power plants will be "technically feasible" within a decade or two, each plant able to beam solar energy back to Earth for use by citizens across it. Of course all of this is without a specific road map or exact scientific architecture it seems, but it seems like a good time!
The study on this proposed solution to all of our energy problems was billed as "the first broadly based international assessment of potential paths to collecting solar energy in space and delivering it to markets on Earth via wireless power transmission" - quite a mouthful! This study noted that government funding would be needed to get the project activated and sustained as private-sector funding doesn't work so well with such "economic uncertainties" and time lags involved in development. This project notes that the space solar power solution would be a long-term energy fix for Earth that would include a potential for "essentially zero" terrestrial environmental impact.
The study's environmental impact bit is according to the National Space Society advocacy group who is set to hold a news conference in Washington this week to publicize the 248-page IAA report. According to the plan, one satellite would be launched, then another, then eventually batches of satellites capable of collecting solar power would be in geosynchronous orbit around the equator. Each of these satellites would be collecting sunlight for up to a full 24 hours a day across their up to several kilometer wide bodies. Power would be converted to electricity onboard and sent to Earth by lasers or large microwave-transmitting antenna.
Once the power was sent to Earth, it would be fed into a power grid where it could be distributed to all the kids playing Xbox and Playstation and everyone reading their favorite book Ender's Game by the lamp in the middle of the night.
[via The Vancouver Sun]