JAXA, Japan’s space agency, is planning to use power stations in orbit, in order to capture solar energy and send it down to Earth. The method could be a green and long-term solution to Japan’s energy problem, since the country’s nuclear reactors were closed after a natural disaster hit the north-east of the country in March 2011.
Now JAXA is aiming to set up a Space Solar Power System (SSPS) by 2030. An array of extremely light mirrors would sit in geostationary orbit to collect solar energy and then transmit it to a power plant on the ground via microwaves or laser beams. There it could be used to generate electricity and hydrogen, the international press reports.
This source of energy could be used for a long time with no worries that the resources would come to an end. It would be unaffected by the time of day or weather and would provide environmentally friendly, clean energy.
Yasuyuki Fukumuro is leading research and planning for SSPS. He says: “We have not yet decided whether to use microwaves or laser beams with SSPS, or whether we will somehow combine them. We are currently conducting ground-based experiments to find the most efficient way to transmit energy.
“Regardless of which transmission technology we use, when we collect sunlight from outside the Earth’s atmosphere, we can get a continuous supply of it, with almost no influence from the weather, the seasons, or time of day, allowing very efficient collection of solar energy.
“And since the energy source is the Sun, it is an endlessly renewable resource — it will not run out as long as the Sun is there. Also, because the power is generated in space and carbon dioxide is emitted only at the receiving site, emissions within the Earth’s atmosphere can be greatly reduced, which makes this technology very friendly to the environment.”
The technology could help especially in disaster situations, when the power is often cut, Fukumuro suggested.