JAXA looks at generating clean energy via solar power from space

10/02/2013 - 00:00

Q. Could you explain the Space Solar Power Systems project.

The Space Solar Power Systems project is a space-based solar power plant that generates energy by collecting sunlight in geostationary orbit. The energy is then transmitted to the ground, and converted into electricity and hydrogen for practical use. SSPS consists of a space-based power generation/transmission facility that gathers sunlight, converts it into microwaves or laser beams, and transmits those to the ground; and a power receiving facility on the ground.
There are differences in characteristics and capability between microwaves, which are used in microwave ovens and cellular phones, and laser beams, which you commonly see in computer printers and presentation pointers. We have not yet decided which of the two to use 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's an endlessly renewable resource - it won't 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.