Ben Bova, the president emeritus of the National Space Society, recently suggested an incredible solution to the world’s energy crisis. Instead of taking solar panels and sticking them on your roof, he wants to send photovoltaic arrays off into space and beam solar energy down to earth. Since they are constantly exposed to the sun, such solar power satellites could provide a continuous stream of 5-10 gigawatts of energy!

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In a recent Washington Post article Mr. Bova explains that the technology is not as farfetched as one would think. We already know how to send materials into space, and we have built large superstructures in zero-gravity environments (think the space station), so perhaps building a giant solar collector in space is not entirely out of the question.

His proposal is to build and launch solar power satellites – large photovoltaic arrays that constantly convert sunlight into electricity and use microwaves to beam that energy back to earth-bound receiving stations. According to Mr Bova, a single one of these satellites would send enough energy to power all of California. Since one would need a large surface to collect all of this energy, the best locations for receiving stations are dry areas such as the Nevada Desert or the Sahara.

Although the costs involved are fairly astronomical, the technology exists today, and this is not the first space-bound solar proposal that we have seen. So, what do you think – should someone give it a try?

+ Ben Bova

+ Washington Post

Via Treehugger