Saturday, August 31, 2013: NASA engineers are planning to harness solar energy from the orbit and deliver it to us via special platforms. John Mankins, who heads the project, says that the process of making the platforms is still in the development stage. The project has officially been named SPS-ALPHA standing for Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrary Large Phased Array. The overall idea is to set up several arrays of solar panels in a way that takes the shape of margarita glass. These glasses will be able to capture the power of the sun rays and using microwave transmission panel will direct the energy to stations in the earth as radio waves.
The radio waves sent from the orbit will be received in the earth by a large diode array that has been knit to create a mesh like structure. These diode meshes can be planted anywhere including large farms, remote places, disaster sites and any place requiring immediate and undisturbed supply of power. Mankins, however, said in an interview that he prefers to use low intensity microwave transmitters.
This effectively means that receivers on Earth need to be large, approximately 6-8 kilometer long in diameter and should be installed 5-10 meters above ground level. The idea involves a huge technical challenge since conversion of solar power into electrical energy requires a very high temperature. Mankins has proposed the development of panels that will withstand high temperatures and have an improved conversion rate. The project definitely will involve astronomical costs and if things go right, we can make the most of the project by 2025.