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Beaming solar power to Earth could become a reality someday

Space solar power array

It sounds like something from a Robert Heinlein book but it may well be a glimpse of our renewable energy future. The U.S. Navy says it has an idea that could collect solar energy in space and turn it into solar energy they beam down to Earth.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) spacecraft engineer Paul Jaffe has created two prototypes of space solar modules. The “sandwich” design has one side receiving solar energy with a photovoltaic panel; electronics in the middle that convert that direct current to a radio frequency; and the other side with an antenna to beam power away. The second module design has the sandwich be more of a zig-zag, allowing heat to radiate more efficiently so the module receives greater concentrations of sunlight without overheating.. This second design is currently going through the patent process.


The modules would, if funded, be launched into space separately, then assembled by robots into an enormous array that converts solar energy into a radio frequency that gets beamed to receivers on Earth. But funding and scale are two serious issues that would need to be resolved before this project could get off the ground, so to speak. The array would be over nine times larger than a U.S. football field and authorization would cut across a number of federal agencies. Who knows if it will ever come to pass? But it sure sounds like a great idea.

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