A solar panel on a rooftop smacks of so much personal freedom that most people are very intrigued. The energy is so clean and healthy – seemingly inexhaustible. With the proper equipment in place, it’s practically free! New resources are cropping up everywhere, including sites like http://solarenergyplans.net/, that are making it easier than ever to add solar power to your home.
The amount of solar energy bathing the earth’s surface is indeed tremendous. In a sense, solar energy powers all life on earth today and produces all of the energy sources we use. Plant life grows through photosynthesis, the plant’s own solar-based fueling system. Plants decomposed and compressed into coal and oil in swamps for millions of years form the basis of our current energy consumption.
How do we grab that vast, available solar power and made it work for us?
The simple rooftop panel is something already very familiar. Commercial and residential buildings are designed to utilize passive solar energy resources without mechanical means to heat, light or cool a building. Exciting advances have been made in solar-powered cars and high efficiency photovoltaics (PV cells) Constant innovation is ongoing to increase the efficiency of such cells and produce more power. Various attempts are being made to decrease production costs and integrate solar panels into the structure of a building, earning the developer reduced construction costs through credits. Even so, solar energy is proving a spotty and expensive energy solution in its current phase.
New ideas, anyone? Of course! This one may cause roof-top solar energy to go the way of the kerosene lamp!
John Mankins is the ex-Nasa scientist behind a project called SPS-Alpha. In brief, SPS-Alpha plans to send multiple thousands of bubble-light, inflatable modules into space. Once arrived, they will be assembled into a giant, lamp-shaped structure covered with mirrors to concentrate solar energy onto ground stations on earth using microwaves. This could immediately reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and, theoretically, at least, provide unlimited clean power.
The catch is in the cost. Mankins feels his theory is very sound, but it is unproven technology by its very nature. No one has made a shot across the bow and actually lofted such solar modules into space. Estimated costs to get the project off the ground run from $15 to 20 billion. Initially, Mankins had research funding from Nasa’s advanced concepts departments, but that money ran out in 2012. At the moment, Mankins is looking for wealthy benefactors.
“I can’t think of a better solution than to find somebody who is very wealthy, very visionary and willing to make this happen,” he says.
There’s another catch, of course. Quite a number of scientists believe that money powering solar energy proposals should remain right here on earth. The sheer cost of such a project is enormously prohibitive, for one thing. Yes, the idea of having huge transmitters ‘up there’ and out of the way here on earth is very appealing. But the sheer cost of maintaining the operation and transmitting the energy back to earth does not pass muster with cost-benefit analysis, reports radio scientist Professor William A Coles.
Mankins remains undaunted. “I haven’t found the right visionary billionaire yet. But, I’m still looking.”
Although the solar space project remains fiscally daunting, it sounds very appealing for future endeavors.
‘Beaming down’ may yet be the solar wave of the future!