What Logic Is There In Harvesting Solar Power From Outer Space?
Although there is an adequate supply of solar energy reaching the earth's surface to meet our needs, there are certain hurdles that collecting solar energy in space could overcome.
1. Sometimes, you may have noticed, it's night. A constellation of orbital arrays could be positioned to collect solar energy 24 hours per day.
2. Weather. Clouds interfere with terrestrial arrays.
3. Photo voltaic (solar) arrays are delicate. Winds, heat, rain, snow, sleet, hail, falling acorns, etc. are all potentially damaging to solar arrays.
Of course, collecting energy in orbit brings a much more challenging problem than any of these: how do you get it to earth? I've seen articles that talk about "beaming" energy to the earth's surface, but I've yet to see anything that explains how this could be done in a cost-efficient manner without creating dangerous electro-magnetic fields.
Don't forget that the same sort of people who propose these sorts of projects are the sort that point out that it's technically possible to build a ladder that could reach orbital altitudes, or that we could grow all of our food hydroponically on the moon. "Practical" is a word that is frequently lost on such visionaries.
None whatsoever as far as I can see. Hopefully in 5 to 10 years time we will be able to collect all the energy we need using sheets of material (here on the ground) to collect infrared radiation, 24 hours a day.
The primary advantage is that you can track the sun 24/7 unlike the earth where you are restricted to the amount of sunlight daily. Hence, the productive factor increases by at least double!
Another advantage is the amount of radiation on the panels. Radiation from the sun is split into direct and diffuse. The diffused component is due to our atmosphere - mainly clouds. It also includes reflections off other surfaces etc. This is reduced in space and hence the direct component is far higher. current technology of solar cells work best with direct sunlight. hence, the efficiency is higher. moreover, you don't get problems of shading over the panel that drastically affects the output factor.
The primary drawbacks is the cost of getting the panels up there, the maintenance of the whole setup, and how to get the energy to be transmitted back down.
I wrote a hub about this called, "OSA: Orbital Solar Array." You should check it out sometime.
You could have free, fusion energy from the sun by collecting its energy (like space flowers), beaming the microwaves through the vacuum, and tethered down to earth using a nano-carbon-fillament that may even double as a Space Elevator!
The tether even conducts static electricity, harnessing lightning at the same time.
It could solve the energy crisis.
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