Electronic Power Research Institute Calls for More Research in Solar Energy

May 09, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

New, breakthrough energy concepts must be implemented in order to provide sustainable energy for the 10-billion global population expected by the year 2050, according to the Electronic Power Research Institute's (EPRI, Palo Alto, CA) Roadmap, a pathway to the future for electric power. Collecting solar energy in space may be one way to fit the bill.

According to an article in the latest issue of the EPRI Journal, sun-facing photovoltaic arrays in a stationary Earth orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles would receive eight times as much sunlight as they would at the Earth's surface, on average. Space arrays would also be unaffected by the Earth's day-night cycle, cloud cover and atmospheric dust. Transmitters connected to large space-based solar photovoltaic arrays could then beam as much as several billion watts of power to Earth at microwave radio frequencies for collection by a wide area rectifying ground antenna, and convert them to electricity.

The idea of beaming solar power from space was first proposed more than 30 years ago, but now the perceived need for such a source is greater and the outlook for eventual economic feasibility within the next several decades is more favorable.

In addition, EPRI CEO Kurt Yeager, called for accelerated research and development in renewable energy on April 22, the 30th anniversary of Earth Day.

EPRI's Manager of Solar Power and Green Power Marketing Terry Peterson added to the statement in proclaiming that the surest route to truly cost-effective solar power is not by ramping up the use of currently available technologies, but rather by increased support of research to improve upon them.