Everyone knows about the benefits of solar power. The notion probably conjures up images of shiny photovoltaic panels covering rooftops or large stretches of desert.
That's all great, but there are some serious limitations to current technologies for harvesting solar energy on the Earth's surface. For starters, it only works when the sun is out. That means you can't generate electricity at night, in very cloudy conditions, or at high latitudes where the sun's energy striking the earth is weaker. It's also inefficient, which is why it takes so much surface area to generate sufficient power. Despite these limitations, I'm actually a staunch advocate of solar power. That's why I'm currently having panels installed on my roof.
There is much talk in the media lately on the need for clean energy. I'm thrilled that politicians are finally taking the issue seriously. However, the debate on solving our energy crisis has largely ignored the one source that has no drawbacks: space-based solar power. All other forms have problems like greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, hazardous waste from nuclear plants, etc.
A breakthrough in space-based solar power was announced today. Former NASA executive and physicist John Mankins successfully beamed solar energy 92 miles (148 km) from Maui to the island of Hawaii. That's about the same distance as an array of solar panels in orbit would need to send the energy back to earth. The video of the press release announcing the achievement is below:
As a major advocate of space-based solar power, the National Space Society has produced an excellent video aimed at convincing the next president to set our country on a path of developing the technology to solve our energy needs in this century: