US Company to Put Solar Panels into Space This Year, Premise for Space-Based Solar Weapons
It’s no sci-fi plot. Pacific Gas and Electric, a U.S. based company plans to send a set of solar panels into space that will beam clean energy to Earth – and an ability to power millions of homes from the skies above us, but there are other uses for space based solar power which are receiving less publicity.
Pacific Gas and Electric already serves San Francisco and parts of Northern California. They’ve agreed to purchase a start-up that claims to have the potential to create solar energy in space.
According to the Guardian,
“The initial plan is for the firm Solaren Corp to provide some 200MW of electricity. Solaren, which is based in Manhattan Beach, California, says it will launch a satellite with an array of solar panels around 22,000 miles above the earth’s equator using existing rocket technology, and then convert the power generated into radio-frequency transmissions.”
Solaren’s website states,
“Solaren has engineered zero emission electricity from space that is cost competitive with any terrestrial source of baseload electricity. Solaren will design, develop, integrate, test and certify Space Solar Power (SSP) plants for operations. In the coming decade, Solaren will perform unprecedented components, subsystems and systems testing, both on the ground and in space, to validate all aspects of our SSP Plants. The multi-billion dollar SSP development program culminates with the launch of the Solaren solar power satellites, operational certification of the SSP Ground Receive Station, and start of commercial operations and sales of electricity from our 250 MW SSP Plant.”
The company’s site also states that the solar panels were expected to go live sometime in 2016 or 2017.
Space-based solar power (SBSP) has been in the planning (if not already executed much earlier in secret space programs), with proposals being in place since the 1970s.
There are numerous potential advantages including collecting energy from solar rays at a higher rate. Panels placed in space can collect light diffused in our atmosphere. The lack of this atmosphere in space makes solar energy much stronger. As much as 60% of solar light is currently lost as it enters Earth’s atmosphere.
There are also further potentials, which are not outlined in most of the publically available proposals – such as an ability to refuel solar-powered elements of space craft, or as an interim power center for satellites and other technologies.
The Department of Energy has already talked about using mirrors and high-tech collectors to gather solar energy in space.
The technology that is publically available is fascinating in its own right. Self-assembling satellites are sent into space along with either a microwave or laser transmitter, and inflatable mirrors, all of which can beam the solar energy back to the earth.
The solar panels convert solar power into either a microwave or a laser, the later, considered to be much less expensive. Microwave transmitters require multiple trips to space to be assembled, due to their weight, while lasers can be put into space for millions instead of tens of billions.
The two most commonly discussed designs for SBSP have been a large, deeper space microwave transmitting satellite and a smaller, nearer laser transmitting satellite.
The Department of Energy sites states that, “While the Energy Department isn’t currently developing any SBSP technologies specifically, many of the remaining technologies needed for SBSP could be developed independently in the years to come. And while we don’t know the future of power harvested from space, we are excited to see ideas like this take flight.”
Funny, then that there are already even space-weapons based on the same technology that have been discussed in public view. For example, there are already patents on “solar powered space weapons,” US patent, 9346563 B1, and others. Their proposed use is to target asteroids or other space debris that might approach Earth