01 October 2007

Solar Power Without Solar Panels?

A few months ago I read that one hour's worth of solar energy (if it could all be captured) would be enough to provide power for the entire earth for one year.

Currently, solar technology is the least advanced of all the renewable energy technologies. Most of the technical advancements are being made in the area of increasing efficiency of solar cells. But one problem with current technology is that solar cells require solar panels, and solar panels require large areas to set up an array. With land being a finite and increasingly precious resource, that is a problem that can only get worse. Furthermore, solar arrays are only practical in sunny climates.

Japanese scientists are developing an interesting solution to both these problems by putting solar panels on orbiting satellites, which collect the energy and beam it to ground-based power stations in laser form.

Unlike earthbound solar power stations, which are subject to night-time darkness and cloudy conditions, JAXA’s SSPS will be able to make use of solar energy 24 hours a day. With slight improvements in the solar-to-laser conversion efficiency and by incorporating solar collectors measuring 100 to 200 meters long, a single satellite will be able to match the output of a 1-gigawatt nuclear power plant, the researchers say.


Dave P. said...

Very interesting, thanks for this.

Mark said...

The trouble would be in the transfer of energy. Nuclear energy could provide all the U.S.'s needs if we could convert it safely. You'd think solar would be more feasible (or at least have fewer risks).