Rising fuel costs have spurred some pretty wacky ideas. One that maybe isn’t so crazy is harvesting solar power from space. While the idea isn’t new—NASA and The US Department of Energy studied it throughout the 1970s—the time has come when it might not be too expensive to start pursuing it.
Pravna Mehta, the director of India operations for Space Island Group, a company working to develop solar satellites, thinks space energy has excellent potential. According to his vision, satellites would electromagnetically beam solar energy to ground-based receivers, where the energy would be converted to electricity and transferred to power grids.
Since satellites in high Earth orbits are unaffected by earth’s shadows, the energy would be available every day without fail.
Unfortunately, it may be awhile before we see any concrete results from this idea.
While a 2007 Pentagon report encourages the development of space power, Charles Miller of the Space Frontier Association estimates that it will only be possible within the next ten years if we act now.
At the same time, getting into space isn’t cheap, the robotic technology to create solar satellites is not yet available, and someone has to take care of the billion dollar bill for the whole thing.
But with interest from Russia, China, the European Union, and India—and growing anxiety around the world about energy access— perhaps we might be using energy from outer space within our lifetimes.