Beaming Down Earth's Energy From Space
It's always sunny in low-Earth orbit, so what better place to look for a source of solar energy?
With the end of "cheap oil" rumored to be rapidly approaching (if not already upon us), not to mention the effects of fossil fuel use upon the environment and climate, sources of alternate, clean and renewable energy appear to be the unavoidable wave of the future.
But the key factor in all these ventures is efficiency -- how to get the most "bang for the buck" in the harnessing, creation and distribution of energy.
Oil and coal must be extracted, shipped, refined and burnt, contributing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Wind needs to be 1) present, and 2) converted to energy with turbines, and water requires the construction of dams, which are not only expensive but also radically change the ecosystem of the river they are built upon. Even ground-based solar panels are subject to weather and the Earth's day/night schedule.
Enter the concept of space solar power -- using orbiting solar panels that constantly collect energy from the sun, unfiltered and uninterrupted, and "beam" it back down to Earth where it can be sent along the grid for use by communities.
The sun is constantly putting out incredibly vast amounts of radiant energy in all directions. (About the equivalent of 2 billion power plants' worth of yearly energy every second!) Earth receives only a fraction of this output, yet capturing it has the potential of providing renewable and virtually pollution-free energy -- especially in places where access to conventional power grids is limited or impossible.