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Space based Solar Power

Posted by rajascientist Monday, December 28, 2009

Space-based solar power (SBSP) (or historically space solar power (SSP)) is a system for the collection of solar power in space, for use on Earth. SBSP differs from the usual method of solar power collection in that the solar panels used to collect the energy would reside on a satellite in orbit, often referred to as a solar power satellite (SPS), rather than on Earth's surface. In space, collection of the Sun's energy is unaffected by the day/night cycle, weather, seasons, or the filtering effect of Earth's atmospheric gases.

Average solar power per unit area outside Earth's atmosphere during any given time period is about 136%[citation needed] that available on Earth's surface during direct sunlight (1336 W/m2). A major interest in SBSP stems from the length of time the solar collection panels can be exposed to a consistently high amount of solar radiation. For most of the year, a satellite-based solar panel can collect power 24 hours per day, whereas a land-based station can collect for only 12 hours per day, yielding lower power collection rates around the sunrise and sunset hours.

The collection of solar energy in space for use on Earth introduces the new problem of transmitting energy from the collection point, in space, to the place where the energy would be used, on Earth's surface. Since wires extending from Earth's surface to an orbiting satellite would be impractical, many SBSP designs have proposed the use of microwave beams for wireless power transmission. The collecting satellite would convert solar energy into electrical energy, which would then be used to power a microwave emitter directed at a collector on the Earth's surface. Dynamic solar thermal power systems are also being investigated.


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