The U.S. Air Force is trying to find out if we could one day collect solar power in space and beam it down to Earth.
The Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstration and Research (SSPIDR) project is a over $100 million partnership between the Air Force and defense contractor Northrop Grumman.
The idea is to cut down on the need to deliver armed convoys full of fuel to power remote military outposts — and maybe provide power for civilians in remote areas.
SSPIDR would use solar power panels in space to collect power, convert it to radio frequencies and then beam it down to remote outposts.
SSPIDR has several interesting advantages.
The most efficient place to collect solar power is in space. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Earth’s atmosphere reflects about 30 percent of the energy back into space.
Properly positioned, solar power satellites could also be fully exposed to the sun, generating optimal levels of electricity. In space it’s noon 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A constellation of satellite-mounted solar panels, roughly the area of two football fields, would collect solar energy, convert it to radio frequency, and beam it down to Earth.
Easier said than done. It’s an ambitious plan that has yet to be demonstrated in the real world.
The problem with space-based solar is getting the electricity down to the ground. The effort is still in the exploratory phase, with no timetable on deployment of a working system.
Reference- Popular Mechanics, Stars and Stripes, Futurism