Solar Power Array Could Orbit Earth

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The U.S. Navy has a solar power plan that’s literally out of this world. The concept entails constructing an orbiting solar array in space that spans nine football fields.

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U.S. Naval Research Laboratory spacecraft engineer Paul Jaffe is working on solar modules intended to be launched into space one at a time. Then robots would assemble them into an enormous array that converts solar energy into a radio frequency that gets beamed to receivers on Earth. Hat tip Inhabitat.

The U.S. Navy is serious about finding efficient ways to power military installations, especially in remote areas. Being able to receive power from space would help keep operations covert. The U.S. Naval Research Lab is saying the array could power a whole city, too.

Currently Jaffe is currently testing two different kinds of solar modules in the lab: one that packs tech into a sandwich-like form and another that unfolds in a zig-zag shape. Once in space, a ring of reflectors would concentrate solar power onto the giant module array.

Jaffe is aware how crazy the plan sounds: ”Hard to tell if it’s nuts until you’ve actually tried,” he said in a press release. The thing is, we have tried — and building large-scale solar installations on the ground has been hard enough. The costs are astronomical, the stakes high and the design consequences can be deadly.

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I appreciate thinking outside the blue marble, but let’s master large-scale solar tech on Earth before we start launching hundreds of experimental modules into space. The sun will wait.

Image: The concept for space solar power reflectors that concentrate sunlight onto module array. Credit: John C. Mankins, U.S. Navy.

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