That’s right. And before you preemptively speculate, this is not something new.
Space-based solar power generation has been proposed and feasible since the 60’s. However, you may have heard of recent proposals in the last few years, such as the U.S. Navy’s plan to beam down energy from orbiting solar panels, the Department of Energy’s developments via their Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Space Energy’s ambitious project for SBSP (space-based-solar-power) toward a clean energy market, Russia’s proposed plan regarding infrared energy receiving stations via an “infrared window”, and the proposed collaboration between the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on an Space-Based Solar Power Initiative…to cite a few.
Space-based solar power (SBSP) is the concept of collecting solar power in space (using an “SPS”, that is, a “solar-power satellite” or a “satellite power system”) for use on Earth. It has been in research since the early 1970s. [source]
Although there is speculation behind everything due to the obvious history of humankind, let alone of the countries allocating such time to even put forth plans such as these which involve collaboration toward a monumental common goal for the greater good regarding the longevity of our species…one this is certain and blatantly obvious: ambivalence regarding fossil fuels and climate change is beyond irrelevant.
We can no longer entertain climate change deniers or wish away our carbon emissions. Action is needed, and the sun has been a thriving energy power plant blinding us with its raw power, while the physics have been awaiting our crawl out of carbon addiction to realize what we’ve known all along…anything unsustainable will ultimately be just that — not sustainable. It’s only been a matter of when. We must come up with the how, and there are a growing number of feasible options.
“The timing of the oil catastrophe is a great opportunity for re-evaluating solar energy from space.” - Former Astronaut Buzz Aldrin [read the blog post from the National Space Society]
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has proposed an exciting Space Solar Power System, whereby sunlight is collected in geostationary orbit, converted into electromagnetic radiation via microwaves or laser beams, transmitted to a ground or ocean-based receiving facility for use as electricity and hydrogen for Earth use.
Questions? Read “Practical-Application of Space-Based Solar Power Generation" from JAXA and the MOTHERBOARD | VICE editorial, which addresses such issues as Earth’s rotation…
The problem is that part of the Earth’s rotation spins it away from the sun, which doesn’t do much good for a solar power station. So the scientists hacked the initial model by adding in a couple mirrors to reflect the sunlight and point it directly on the panels, 24/7. These mirrors are just floating free, and scientists on the ground have to configure the whole setup with extreme precision. [source]
…and the storage of energy via solar stations on Earth.
The solar station is tethered to a base station on the ground with six-mile-long wires. This acts as a counterforce to offset the gravitational pull so the satellite is essentially pulled in tow as the Earth turns, keeping it at a fixed point in geostationary orbit. It’s the concept astrophysicists proposed to build our future space elevators, as explained Professor Emeritus at JAXA Susumi Sasaki in an editorial in IEEE. [source]
For further reading, I recommend IEEE Spectrum’s article “How Japan Plans to Build an Orbital Solar Farm”.
No matter what avenue is explored first, when it comes to sustainable energy, the future is indeed bright. Watch JAXA’s SBSP Systems video HERE.