Scientists Predict Solar-Powered Satellites Will Become Major Energy Source

September 17, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

Scientists at a recent congressional hearing in Washington told the House Science subcommittee on space and aeronautics that solar-powered satellites will become a major energy source by the year 2030. With electric energy use projected to grow 75 percent worldwide by 2020 and oil production expected to slow due to depleted reserves after 2015, employing satellites to transmit energy to provide electricity needed to heat homes and run appliances could help resolve what appears to be an upcoming energy crisis. As Ralph H. Nansen, president of Solar Space Industries, said, "The time is now right for development to begin." John C. Mankins, manager of Advanced Concepts Studies at NASA, said that that the space agency has begun to lay out plans to develop satellite-powered energy using several technologies currently in the works. He cited high-voltage solar panels that could handle sunlight during 99 percent of a 24-hour day, wireless transmitters that can beam large amounts of microwave energy, and an "inflatable radiator" to absorb heat in space as projects all under development.