The idea of collecting solar power in space and transmitting it to earth is not a new one. The idea has been popular for decades because solar panels in space would be far more efficient than those based on Earth, due to the lack of clouds, or disturbance by the ozone layer.
Russian scientists have proposed the construction of a giant solar-power space-station which would orbit the earth. The idea was put forth by none other than the Central Scientific Research Institute for Engineering, part of the Russian Space Agency.
American Peter Glaser first conveyed the idea of space based solar power back in 1968 when he suggested that solar panels covering an area of several square kilometres could collect solar energy and convert it into electricity, from where it could then be transmitted to the Earth’s surface via the medium of microwaves.
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The Russian plan is very similar except they will use lasers rather than microwaves. Unfortunately no laser currently exists that has enough power, so the Russians propose to use many infrared lasers spread across the area of the panels, with the intention of combining their radiation to create a powerful enough laser beam to transfer the electricity to Earth.
Academic Alexander Zheleznyakov is supportive of the idea, suggesting further study. “If energy from space is cheaper, it is beneficial because Earth has been experiencing an energy deficit. There is a need to think of the future. We are building power plants on Earth, and if we can build a solar power station in space, we should not miss this opportunity.”
The US, Japan, Europe, and China are also planning to build solar power stations in space around 2030-2040.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com