The United States Naval Research Laboratory is developing technology that will allow solar power to be harvested in orbit and beamed back down to Earth, Wired has reported.
Both of the current prototype designs combine solar panels with electronics to convert the energy to radio waves for beaming down to Earth. The plan is to one day utilize robotic spacecraft to transport the solar panels into orbit, and then assemble the components to form a 1 kilometre wide satellite.
So what’s the point of harvesting solar power from orbit? Well, theoretically, once the equipment is in place, capturing solar energy from orbit would be very efficient, as the solar panels can generate power continuously, and the output would not have to rely on Earth’s varied weather conditions.
There are obvious benefits for the Navy when it comes to its use of power in the field. Once deployed, power would become cheaper, and could be delivered in large amounts to where it’s needed. However,Â private enterprise is also interested; apparently, a California power utility wants to purchased space-based solar power by 2016.
This is not the world’s only space-based solar power plan. Last year we reported on a promising, similar planÂ Japanâ€™s space agencyÂ hasÂ to harvest energy from solar power-generating satellites, and send it back down for use on the Earthâ€™s surface. Is the era of space-based solar power fast approaching?
Image: US Navy,Â Concept for space solar power