Solar power is a renewable source of energy, conversed of sunlight into electricity, directly using photovoltaics or indirectly using concentrated solar power. Photovoltaics were used to power small and medium applications, from watch and calculator to off-grid homes. This is an inexpensive source of electrical energy, and according to a new Fraunhofer report, solar power in sunny regions of the world is going to be cheaper from gas or coal. For several years worldwide growth of solar photovoltaics (further PV) raised in many countries and regions all over the world, including Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Thailand. The increasing amount of private CVs shows the capabilities of this electricity source, especially by comparing its cost to oil and gas prices.
Of all renewable energy systems the solar power is most accessible because of the ubiquity of sunlight. But still, even PV solar systems can’t grant overall base load power, and it is too expensive to get the PV panels for “home use”. According to George Johnson’s “Plugging into the Sun” dated by September 2009, researches of NRLE said that PV cells are too far from being ready for the massive production. As said Ray Stults, an associate director of laboratory: “The technology is incredibly sophisticated. We can make it right now for $10,000 per square centimeter, but not many people are going to buy it”
Photovoltaics are not limited to houses, warehouses or some other private buildings. The Nellis Air Force Base, located on the northeastern outskirts of Las Vegas, is supplied by an average of 25 percent of electricity, gained with photovoltaics. Also, for example, in 2007 the SunPower Corporation’s solar photovoltaic installation generated about 14,200 kilowatts, which made this corporation as one of the biggest in the U.S. but still – about the 25th largest in the world – the heavy investments in solar power were almost in Spain and Germany only.
There is also a fact, that the solar plants still has no a storage system at all, since the photovoltaics produce energy directly, there is nothing to capture in molten salt tanks. But there was an option to compress air into the underground cavrns, while the photovoltaics drive pumps during the daytime. The compressed air was used in Germany and Alabama to save and store the output of power plants for the usage during the daytime peak. Thus, the cycle can be reverted, giving an opportunity to get electricity at night by releasing the pent-up energy from the sunlight hours to spin the turbine.
Many sources of power, like solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric all rely on specific conditions, rare in nature. The places with correct conditions oftentimes located too far from the populated places where this power is necessary. However, there is only a single place with all the suitable conditions – The Earth’s orbit. It receives a solar flow each square meter of which provides around 1.4 GW (gigawatt). Until the sun’s rays get to the planet surface, the solar flow is almost reduced to a quarter of its value. A huge satellite, with mirrors or collection surfaces, located in geostationary orbit, located about 35,7k kilometers above the equator will be the cross-piece of fully developed space solar system. The satellite will collect and convert solar radiation into an electro-magnetic beam. The greatest advantage of space solar power systems will be two/three satellites, capable of directing GWs of power to any location of The Earth.
A great advantage of the solar power is its infinity. As Johnson explains, the sun has the potential to provide even more energy than the world needs. Nevada solar plants prove that this energy has a great future for the economic growth. Space solar power also has no pollution effect on nature and environment, and it is also referred to the green source of energy. But any mechanical problem with the space satellites can lead to the interruption of the services, dependent on this power.
The concept of space solar power systems doesn’t look fantastic since it’s not a science fiction – the dream of almost unlimited source of power coming true. Just in few last years this idea got currency with governments of China and Japan, and also few companies of United States went abroad, dedication commercialization of this concept. The United States official interest in this concept was occasional, since its articulation. Peter Glaser, an American engineer, generally credited this concept in 1968 and was granted by a patent for this idea within five years. But then, the interest in this research became less important, until the 1970s.
The first major phase of researches in this subject was in 1970, during the NASA and Energy studying feasibilities of this concept. They proposed a concept of 5GW design, but the technology of that time couldn’t do the task economically possible, that’s why the researches got a second wind only during the second phase of the space solar power system development. The second phase takes place from 1995 to 1997, during a “fresh look” of NASA into this concept, having their new technologies to use.
The start of a third phase was initiated by Pentagon’s NSSO publication of a report about the opportunities of solar power for the strategic security in 2007. The media outlets were amazed by the concept and intimated that US government interested in these researches. Last few years firms from Switzerland, United States take more serious look at the concept of the solar power, and ever beyond – the realization of this concept and profits. The fact that NASA and Pentagon showed such interest in the development of space solar power means that this idea has a really good future, as a renewable and infinite source of power, which can really help U.S. to save a lot of money.
The investments in the concept of space solar power systems is fully justified by the danger of global warming and shortage of the natural energetic sources like coal, gas and oil. According to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) information, during the last 50 years the average global temperature started increasing at much fastest rate that it was before. The scientists say that average U.S. temperature can rise higher from 3 to 9 degrees by the end of the century.
Global warning impacts water resources, energy supplies, transportation, ecosystems and agriculture. The quality of human’s health degrades: the risk of illness and death caused by extreme heat is higher than it was before; diseases transmitted through food, water and insects are also increased in their amount; people from risk-groups like children, elderly and the poop people are the most weak against the climate related health effects. One of the solutions to warn and slow-down the global warming is to change the energy supply sources from gas, oil and woods to the renewable sources of energy like sunlight, wind, etc.
The replacement of gas and oil by the space solar power usage will surely be an absolutely notable invention of our future, because it will truly help humanity to stop deforestation and prevent the combustibles & lubricants usage (which, as everyone knows, leads to the global warming). The development of space solar energy systems opens a great way to humanity.
It’s obvious that the solar power is not the way to save our ecology, but it’s a great opportunity to provide cheap and safe energy to every house. The energy firms raise awareness of the technology, showing its benefits, especially compared to the traditional natural sources mentioned before – The Space Energy firm has given not only public lectures about the technology of this subject, but also has worked with the governments of Japan and China to develop their own space solar power concepts.
But well, the space solar system can become not only as a cheap and safe renewable energy source, but also it can work as a threat to the political systems of today. The reason is simple – every leader wants his country to be the best and to take the predominating position all over the world. The official senior from the China Academy of Sciences Wang Xiji once said: “Whoever takes the lead in the development and utilization of clean and renewable energy and the space and aviation industry will be the world leader”; and this statement clearly says that there will be a lot of debates about the space-based solar power geopolitical consequences.
Like all technologies – it will have at least a dual use. GPS satellites come as an example – it can both serve as a city street guide for tourists or as a guidance system for nuclear rockets. But even if not take the security case in attention, the reorientation to the space solar power from the current energy systems can cause a great loss of the infrastructure, capital investments and also leave thousands of people without their job, electricity and access to energy sources at all.
As it was mentioned before, space solar power satellite system can be used not only as the constant source of electricity and energy, but it’s also can be used as a potentially omnipresent “battery charger”. The key feature of these satellites is the ability to control and deliver constant power for troops anywhere in the world, by simple directing the satellite’s beam to the military receiving station. This can possibly decrease all the logistical burdens and costs connected to the energy supplies for army – there won’t be a need to transport a huge amount of fossil fuels intended to vehicles. That leads to reduced casualties due to needlessness of supplying convoys.
There is also a good thing – this technology isn’t limited to support only the troops of the country-owner of the space solar power satellite. To build a ground stationary power receive complex costs much cheaper than the price of the satellite launching, thus creating an opportunity to support friendly nation without risking own forces. It can be used to support rebels of sovereign territory of another nation, letting them have their source of power and giving them a good chance to resist the regime army. Also, the foreign state under an energy embargo or blockade can be helped this way.
But as well, the space solar power system can be used not only in way or war, but in humanitarian manner – it can be used to help people with all over the world by directing the power on short notice. The solar power can be helpful for people went into the humanitarian disaster, this power can be used to keep refugee camps and hospitals electrified; can provide electricity to desalinate water and in many other critical situations. The solar power system can become one of the many levers of diplomacy.
But as well, it can also be a threat to the national security – as it was said before, solar power can help troops to be more autonomic and independent from the supply convoys which can lead to a newborn country with the ambitions of the world domination.
The use of solar power only depends on people who are going to control these satellites; and this energy, by itself will be a really positive experience to the mankind.
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