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The Next Frontier - Solar Energy from Space?

05 Dec 10:00 by Steve Walia

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In exciting news for sci-fi fans and renewable energy supporters alike, experts believe that outer space could hold the key to humanity's growing energy needs, with the prospect of solar energy from space providing the key for mankind's future survival.

The fact is that humankind needs to find truly sustainable and powerful ways to continue to grow - if it is to continue to grow. Fossil fuels are running out and destroying the planet in the process, and global energy needs are predicted to double by 2100, leading to a real challenge for scientists.

Today's renewable energy technologies have great potential, but solar's ability to scale could ultimately be tested in a whole new way - through space. The sun emits more power in just one hour than mankind consumes in a whole year, but we can only access it when we have sunlight - at least, that is the thinking so far.

But Pentagon and NASA scientists have been looking at solar energy that can be captured in outer space and no longer limited by cloud cover or night-time hours. It also wouldn't be absorbed by ozone, dust and water vapour before reaching Earth, as 25pc of current solar energy is. Space solar also requires no storage as it is constant, leading to a potential efficiency increase of 50pc alone.

The solution? Putting solar panels into the cosmos. Right now it is a concept rather than a reality, but the fact is that humans will need huge amounts of affordable energy in order to sustain current growth and numbers or have far smaller populations in the future.

The challenge is on to devise vast mirrors housed on a satellite. For now it's a possibility, but perhaps in the future it will be our energy reality.