Pentagon Looks Toward Space For Solar Power On Earth

<p>The Pentagon and an international consortium are investigating the feasibility of 'beaming back' solar energy from a network of space-based satellites and Pacific island-based antennae that could begin operating as early as 2012.</p>

December 27, 2007, 1:00 PM PST

By Irvin Dawid


"The Pentagon is investigating whether space-based solar power - beaming energy down from satellites - will provide "affordable, clean, safe, reliable, sustainable and expandable energy for mankind.

The Defense Department this October quietly issued a 75-page study conducted for its National Security Space Office concluding that space power - collection of energy by vast arrays of solar panels aboard mammoth satellites - offers a potential energy source for global U.S. military operations.

It could be done with today's technology, experts say. But the prohibitive cost of lifting thousands of tons of equipment into space makes it uneconomical."

According to American entrepreneur Kevin Reed, an uninhabited island "in the western Pacific nation of Palau ...would be an ideal spot for a small demonstration project, a 260-foot-diameter "rectifying antenna," or rectenna, to take in 1 megawatt of power transmitted earthward by a satellite orbiting 300 miles above Earth.

Reed said he expects his U.S.-Swiss-German consortium to begin manufacturing the necessary ultralight solar panels within two years..."

"Space power has been explored since the 1960s by NASA and the Japanese and European space agencies, based on the fundamental fact that solar energy is eight times more powerful in outer space than it is after passing through Earth's atmosphere."

"To Robert N. Schock, an expert on future energy with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, space power doesn't look like science fiction.

The panel's 2007 reports didn't address space power's potential, Schock explained, because his team's time horizon didn't extend beyond 2030. But, he said, "I wouldn't be surprised at the beginning of the next century to see significant power utilized on Earth from space - and maybe sooner."

Monday, December 24, 2007 in AP via San Francisco Chronicle

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