Harnessing thunderbolt; ESA plans to beam solar energy from space

Paris: Space chiefs are interested in probing whether electricity could be beamed wirelessly from space into millions of homes.
The European Space Agency governing council is to consider the idea at its Paris HQ on Tuesday. The eventual aim is to have giant satellites in orbit, each able to generate the same amount of electricity as a power station, the BBC reported.
It could likely approve a three-year study to see if having huge solar farms in space could work and be cost effective.
Josef Aschbacher, who is ESA’s director general, told BBC News that he believed that solar power from space could be of ‘enormous help’  to address future energy shortages.
”We do need to convert into carbon neutral economies and therefore change the way we produce energy and especially reduce the fossil fuel part of our energy production,” he said.
ESA is seeking funds from its member nations for a research program it calls Solaris, to see if these developments mean that it is now possible to develop space based solar power reliably and cheaply enough to make it economically viable, the BBC said.
“The idea of space-based solar power is no longer science fiction,” according to ESA’s Sanjay Vijendran, who is the scientist leading the Solaris initiative, “The potential is there and we now need to really understand the technological path before a decision can be made to go ahead with trying to build something in space.”
While several organizations and other space agencies have looked into the idea, the so-called Solaris initiative would be the first to lay the ground for a practical plan to develop a space-based renewable energy generation system.
The program is one of a number of proposals being considered by research ministers at the ESA’s Council meeting in Paris which will decide the budget for the next phase of the space agency’s plans for space exploration, environmental monitoring and communications.
The Sun’s energy can be collected much more efficiently in space because there is neither night nor clouds. The idea has been around for more than 50 years, but it has been too difficult and too expensive to implement, until maybe now.
The game changer has been the plummeting cost of launches, thanks to reusable rockets and other innovations developed by the private sector. There have also been advances in robotic construction in space and the development of technology to wirelessly beam electricity from space to Earth. (UNI)                                                                                                                               (feature pic credits-shutterstock.com)

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