Air Force develops new system to harvest solar energy IN SPACE and then radiate it to military bases in remote parts of the world
- The new $ 100 million project will develop a network of solar satellites in orbit
- Energy from the sun is collected by giant solar panels of 10,000 square meters
- The solar energy is converted into radio frequencies and then sent to earth
The Air Force has announced a radical new plan to provide power to military bases in remote locations or areas where stable power sources are missing.
Through a new $ 100 million partnership between with defense contractor Northrop Grumman, the Air Force Research Laboratory will develop a system of satellites with solar panels to harvest solar energy in orbit.
The energy collected by the satellites is then converted into radio waves and transferred to the earth's surface, where they are converted back into usable energy.
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The Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstration and Research project will develop a network of satellites with huge solar panels to harvest energy from the sun and to radiate it into the earth in the form of radio waves
"This technology was first viewed in the 1960s or so, and it wasn't cost-effective at the time," said Major Tim Allen Stars & Stripes.
"Now we are on the road to building some experiments to find out if it is cost effective."
"If we find that this is it and we start producing this operational capacity, I believe the commercial industry will be happy to imitate what we do and deliver this power commercially and not just for the military."
The satellites will receive huge 10,000 square meters of solar panels
Called space-solar energy incremental demonstration and research, it requires a large group of satellites equipped with 10,000 square meters of solar panels to collect solar energy, each about the size of two football fields.
The satellites can be controlled to areas where solar energy is abundant, such as New Mexico, and then to areas with less sun exposure.
According to system engineer Rachel Delaney, the biggest direct challenges for the project are related to keeping the satellites thermally regulated while processing such large amounts of solar energy.
There are also logistical problems related to the maintenance of such large satellites over a long period.
"Energy is a strategic factor and potential vulnerability for our nation and our defense ministry," said AFRL director Col. Eric Felt.
"To ensure DOD mission success, we must have the energy we need in the right place at the right time."
WHAT IS SOLAR POWER?
Solar panels convert energy from the sun into electric power (stock image)
Solar energy is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity.
There are two methods for generating solar energy.
Photovoltaic solar energy – the kind of solar panel that you might see built into a calculator – can convert light directly into electrical power.
However, in concentrated solar systems, mirrors or lenses are first used to capture and focus the sunlight that falls on a large area – it creates heat that can be used to power a steam turbine and generate electricity.
The productivity of solar panels depends on the sunlight that they receive at a certain location – a factor that depends on both latitude and climate.
Optimal locations for solar parks include the dry tropics and subtropics, with deserts that lie at such low latitudes, are often cloudless and receive approximately 10 hours of sunlight every day.
According to NASA, the eastern part of the Sahara – the Libyan desert – is the sunniest place on earth.
Solar energy accounted for 1.7 percent of worldwide electricity production in 2017 and grows by 35 percent each year.
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