Gallery: Solar Winds Could Provide 100 Billion Times Earth’s Energy Nee...


Researchers from Washington State University have published a paper in the International Journal of Astrobiology stating that energy from solar winds could replace conventional forms of renewable energy produced on Earth such as solar, wind and biofuel power. In the article, the scientists theorize that a giant solar sail, designed to harness solar winds, could generate 1 billion gigawatts of electricity.

If implemented, these Dyson-Harrop satellites (named after the inventors) could tap a solar resource containing 100 billion times as much power as the Earth currently needs. The only problem is how to get the energy from space to Earth. Oh, and the fact that the solar sail would have to be 8,400-kilometer (5,220 miles) wide.

Solar wind sails work by pointing a .4-inch-wide copper wire attached to the sail at the sun. This wire, which can be up to half a wire in length, then generates a magnetic field that captures electrons found in solar winds throughout the Solar System. These particles are in turn funneled into a spherical receiver, which then produces a current.

The massive amounts of energy it produces could then be transferred to collectors on space stations, satellites, moon bases or the Earth via powerful infrared laser beams. In fact, a network of satellites could be set up to transfer the energy from the solar sail back to collectors on Earth. In theory, it would be much cheaper than setting up solar stations on the Moon or in space, which is another theory put forward by the Japanese.

“It’s quite amazing how much power it can actually produce,” said Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a co-author of the paper. “In principle it should work quite well, but there are some practical issues.” No kidding.

+ Washington State University

Via Popular Science and Discovery News

Lead image © Nasa


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  1. onlyarose November 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I think its a great “idea” – but it might more pratical to use Earth energy for us and space energy for satellites…

    Just a few homes and small businesses using solar and wind energy in every city would help cut back on the energy crisis. With nuclear power plants as back up only…

  2. kabivose November 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    The 100 billion assumes the sun is completely surrounded by the satellites. The 1 Billion GigaWatts is from 1 satellite, though even that is far more than we use.

  3. etoad123 October 8, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Does that mean the whole earth uses just 10 megawatts of electricty? Just a few large windmills?
    Someone check my math, I\’m from Montana.

  4. Bob -a Tesla fan October 7, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Instead of going into space, why not let space do the work, as Tesla proposed, with his wireless transmission of power,over a hundred years ago. i.e. Wardenclyffe or his 1930 Pierce-Arrow electric car, powered by his mysterious black box.
    a Tesla fan for years

  5. Sterling Allan October 6, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    While the “renewable” component of this idea are to be lauded, there are several problems with this idea.
    1) What about all those meteorites, small, medium, and large that it would inevitably encounter? How easy would it be to detect and patch a hole in the tarp?
    2) This would have a huge up-front capital cost. Not something our planet is going to be able to dish out any time soon, given that we are in barely-eeking-by mode.
    3) The health effects on humans, animals, plants from the transmission of this power are not well enough understood or accounted for. Society is in denial about the harmful effects of our existing gadgets.
    4) This would reinforce the need for a distribution grid. I’d like to see renewables move us toward grid independence, not the other way around.

    I call it a cute idea that should not be pursued for 100 years until we are more mature and able to deal with these things with integrity; and by then, we are likely to have found other free energy sources that are cheaper, and much easier to implement.

    — Sterling D. Allan, CEO, Pure Energy Systems (PES) Network, Inc.

  6. don duck October 6, 2010 at 10:29 am

    …and who would control that power and to what end?

  7. elFisico October 6, 2010 at 6:23 am

    ERm, yes, “powerful infrared laser beams”, in orbit?!

    Does anybody see a problem with that?!

    Single-walled carbon nanotubes could provide a way to build a space elevator into orbit, giving cheap space travel and a way to transport that energy safely back down to earth. Powerful beaming devices are NOT a safe way to get that energy down from orbit.

  8. pauldodo October 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    So, if it produces a hundred billion times more than the earth needs at 8400km wide, erm, why not make it smaller?

    Just saying.


  9. archimy October 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    I think the concept of transmitting this energy to earth will result in a very high loss due to resistance, in whatever form is developed to eventually handle this. However what about space travel? Do these systems create enough instantaneous power to support space travel or are the better for long term low capture applications?

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