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Satellites and lasers to deliver solar power from space - Russia

Russian scientists have proposed building a giant orbiting power station capable of harnessing solar energy and beaming it to Earth.

According to a The Voice of Russia report, the idea has been suggested by Central Scientific Research institute for Engineering, a subsidiary of the Russian Space Agency, Roskosmos.

Solar power would be collected in space using a solar power satellite or satellite power system that would orbit the Earth’s surface and transmitted the collected power to the grid.

The concept of a space-based solar power station was originally formulated by American scientist and aerospace engineer, Peter Glaser in 1968.

Panels with an area of several square kilometres would collect sunlight which would be converted to electricity aboard a satellite and sent to any place in the world using a large microwave-transmitting antenna.

The Russian research institute proposed a revision to Mr. Glaser’s original concept, using lasers in place of microwaves since radio beams are difficult to concentrate and an area of several square meters will be required for the receiving antenna.

With a laser beam, the area needed would be 10 times much smaller. However, there is currently no laser powerful enough to be used this way.

The Russian scientists speculated that many infrared lasers distributed over the panel could be used instead and their radiation would be combined and beamed to Earth.

In a statement, academician Alexander Zheleznyakov said Russia should study this problem. “If energy from space is cheaper, it is beneficial because Earth has been experiencing an energy deficit. There is a need to think of the future. We are building power plants on Earth, and if we can build a solar power station in space, we should not miss this opportunity.”

Deputy editor-in-chief of the Novosti Kosmonavtiki, Igor Lisov, argued that it is not feasible given that such a “beautiful idea would entail large investment.

“There is a need to watch the situation with open eyes without indulging in wishful thinking. None of the countries is conducting serious work that could shift to experimental studies of supplying energy from space,” stressed Mr. Lisov.

The United States, Japan, Europe and China are also planning to build solar power stations between 2030 and 2040. – C. Dominguez

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