Photo credit: woodleywonderworks
Outer space is the final frontier for solar power. It rises above shady clouds and prohibitive sunsets. Space is home to incredibly intense sunlight that never wanes. It is an arena that NASA is already well aware of, using hi-tech solar panels to power satellites and space stations. Now a number of privately owned firms are researching and aggressively working to follow NASA’s lead. The race is on to be the first company to get solar satellites up into orbit.
PowerSat, a Washington state company, has now filed for patents involving the linkage of up to 300 satellites together in space which will beam collected solar energy to one big satellite, or transmitter, which will in turn send that power back to Earth.
PowerSat has two technologies, BrightStar and Solar Powered Orbital Transfer (SPOT), that they say will reduce launch and operation costs by roughly $1 billion for a whopping 2,500 MW power station. Their proposed power station would also use SPOT, or solar powered thrusters to position the solar panels in the most ideal location to collect and transfer energy.
At PowerSat’s side is Solaren, a California-based firm that has a plan (whatever that is exactly they’re not telling) to have a space solar power plant up and beaming down by 2016. Solaren is currently seeking funding to get their project started. They have, curiously enough, already inked a deal with utility PG&E, who will buy 200 MW of their space solar power over eight years beginning in 2016. Now all they have to do is build the thing.
PowerSat, Solaren and other companies researching space-based solar power do have government research on their side. For years NASA and other researchers have attested to the “someday” viability of space derived solar energy. Obama’s transition team even recommended it as advantageous, citing its scalability, lack of intermittency, availability, flexibility, and the all-important fact that no fundamental breakthroughs are necessary to make it happen.
And the race is on.