Solar Power, Harvested From Space

The idea of collecting solar energy in space and beaming it to Earth has been around for at least 70 years. English researchers now hope that it will become a reality within a few years.

What's the Latest Development?


A team of scientists from the University of Surrey, England, will test a laser that, after solar energy has been collected far above Earth's atmosphere, can beam the energy down to be stored on the surface. "The beam itself will be produced by a device called a fibre laser. This generates the coherent light of a laser beam in the core of a long, thin optical fibre. That means the beam produced is of higher quality than other lasers, is extremely straight (even by the exacting standards of a normal laser beam) and can thus be focused onto a small area."

What's the Big Idea?

The problem with collecting solar energy on Earth's surface is that so much of it gets diffused in the atmosphere. But launching and maintaining satellites to collect solar energy from space is currently too costly. "But perhaps not, if the satellites were small and the customers specialised. Military expeditions, rescuers in disaster zones, remote desalination plants and scientific-research bases might be willing to pay for such power from the sky." The idea of transmitting solar energy from space to Earth was first popularized by Isaac Asimov. 

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