Space solar stations are not a new idea at all – they have been researched since the 1970; but as years pass, scientists understand more and more the numerous benefits this type of technology could bring – a true revolution in renewable energy.

This idea might seem taken out from a scientific novel, but back in 2009 the Californian state regulators gave approval to the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Solaren Corp. to start creating a solar based power plant in space; the company was founded by tech veterans from Hughes Aircraft, Boeing and Lockheed and it plans to deploy a free-floating inflatable Mylar mirror one kilometre (0.62 miles) in diameter no later than 2016. According to their patent, the mirror will collect sunlight and in turn concentrate it on another, smaller, mirror, which will focus the rays on photovoltaic modules.

Not wanting to fall back, the Japanese have similar plans, but the launch will take place no sooner than 2030; on the other hand, Europe hopes to build infrared lasers capable of transmitting the energy from these space stations to our planet by 2020.

There are numerous reasons why this technology will revolutionize solar energy; first of all, it has a higher collection rate, because the sun rays won’t be affected and filtered by the ozone layer and the atmosphere. Second of all, they will have access to sunlight 24 hours a day at full intensity, compared to 10-12 hours, which is the maximum you can get on Earth. Also, when in outer space, these stations wouldn’t be affected by any atmospheric changes, or eventual plant or wildlife events. Also, perhaps the most interesting advantage is that, if a viable way of transmitting energy were developed, it could be transferred wherever there is a greater need.

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One comment

  1. 1

    This is one of the dumbest ideas ever, and the story doesn’t even make logical sense.
    You talk about a free-floating inflatable mirror, but say it’s in outer space.
    Furthermore, a mirror in space is not necessarily in the sun all the time.

    A conservative assumption for a ground station is it sees the sun 8 hours daily.  Even if you could collect 24 hours a day with some space based collector, it’s only 3x more than than a ground station.

    It costs ~$5000 to send each pound of payload into orbit.
    A space system that collects energy 24hr/day (maximizing use)
    would have to store it (unlike the balloon mentioned) and would 
    weigh tons, costing a fortune to deploy.
    Also, something like 1-10 launches fail to reach orbit.
    These numbers are never going to add to a gain in energy production.

    Let’s call this for what it really is: pork-barrel high tech corporate welfare 
    at the expense of the tax payers.  
    Worse yet, its not even practical engineering.

    For the billions this would cost to implement, you can buy a whole
    lot of photo-voltaic cells.

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