Japan Planning Massive Satellite to Beam Solar Energy to Earth

The challenges for space-based solar include the enormous cost of launching solar panels four square kilometers worth! into space and assembling them; avoiding damage from space debris and meteors; and keeping the power transmission beam locked on its ground-based receiver. That last issue is a security issue as well as an engineering challenge: the proposed satellite would beam energy to Earth using microwaves, and a 1 gigawatt beam, if concentrated, is enough vaporize 500 kilograms of water in a second. That’s the same as vaporizing 5 – 6 adults. The beam will not be that concentrated, but there are still obvious dangers from missing the target.

Given technical challenges, cost, and some danger, why do this? Orbiting solar would neatly sidestep one of the greatest problems with ground-based solar: cloud cover. It’s always bright and sunny in space. Also, space, even relatively near Earth orbit space, is BIG—dozens or even hundreds, of square miles of solar collectors could be orbited without taking up valuable Earthly real estate. For a small, crowded country like Japan, that’s a real benefit. That also means no NIMBY. And each satellite could beam power to multiple receivers, allowing great flexibility in balancing the power supply and sending energy to where it’s needed.

via Japan Planning Massive Satellite that Will Beam Solar Energy to Earth | HeatingOil.com.

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