Apr 30, 2009

Solar Energy from Space

One of my friends, Alex Moore, sent me this article on solar energy.

A company called SolarEn is looking to develop technology to send solar panels into space, then transmit the energy gathered by the space panels back to the Earth through radio signals. The amount of energy captured without atmospheric filtration could potentially be 10x higher than what can be captured by panels on land.

While the concept itself is not new - NASA performed cost-benefit analyses on such energy sources in the 1960s and 1970s and determined that it would cost around $1 trillion, a great deal more than countries were willing to pay at the time - it could potentially revolutionize the future of solar power. However, the problem of cost still exists unless more funding is poured into making solar cells and space travel cheaper and easier.

Reading this article reminded me of a documentary I watched long ago about solar power. The documentary had mentioned something about solar energy potential in the Sahara Desert, saying a tiny area of land in the Sahara fitted with solar panels has the potential to power half the world's energy needs.

I googled this topic, and found this article. Europe is starting to look at North Africa as a potential source of energy, as costs of solar technology drop and the costs of transporting the energy over longer distances go down.

Space solar energy may not be viable in the immediate future, but I definitely believe that certain areas of the world like the Sahara have an untapped potential to be huge sources of power for the world. It is also potentially a development opportunity for these nations by selling the captured energy to other countries and furthering their economy and infrastructure.


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