Pentagon backs plan to beam solar power from space

Linked with Three Years Oil and You.

Published on NewScientist Environment, by Dan Cho, 11 October 2007.

A futuristic scheme to collect solar energy on satellites and beam it to Earth has gained a large supporter in the US military. A report released yesterday by the National Security Space Office recommends that the US government sponsor projects to demonstrate solar-power-generating satellites and provide financial incentives for further private development of the technology. 

Space-based solar power would use kilometre-sized solar panel arrays to gather sunlight in orbit. It would then beam power down to Earth in the form of microwaves or a laser, which would be collected in antennas on the ground and then converted to electricity. Unlike solar panels based on the ground, solar power satellites placed in geostationary orbit above the Earth could operate at night and during cloudy conditions.

“We think we can be a catalyst to make this technology advance,” said US Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Paul Damphousse of the NSSO at a press conference yesterday in Washington, DC, US.

The NSSO report (pdf) recommends that the US government spend $10 billion over the next 10 years to build a test satellite capable of beaming 10 megawatts of electric power down to Earth.

Abundant energy source: … (full text).

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