US Navy to develop solar power plant in space

24 Mar 2014

The US Navy has begun to look at developing the technology that would allow a giant solar station orbiting the Earth to beam down solar energy for the military.

According to Wired, the US Naval Research Laboratory (USNRL) is looking to shed its position as one of the world’s largest petroleum-consuming organisations but could also potentially save billions of dollars-worth of cost that would have been spent on fuel and the costs involved in shipping it to distant parts of the globe.

So far, the USNRL has produced two prototypes implementing what they call the “sandwich” module whereby the wiring and technology is packed between two solar panels, one side of which absorbs the sun’s rays and converts to energy, with the other will essentially bean the energy back towards Earth.

Dr Paul Jaffe, a spacecraft engineer at NRL, has built and tested the prototypes and has admitted that the idea of a giant solar array in space beaming down energy might sound far-fetched, but within the next number of years it will become more and more likely.

The team behind the solar generator have already begun testing in a vacuum to replicate the environment of space but the finished array will need to be approximately 1km in diameter in order for it to be efficient in terms of the cost of getting it into space in the first place, and the energy that is produced from it.

According to Jaffe, the power that will come from this potential marvel of engineering will be enormous: “”At 2.45 gigahertz, you’ll get power in a monsoon.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic