With gas prices on the rise, the race is on for cheap alternative fuel sources, including solar power, but amid a wash of criticism, the solar industry may not even be in the running. The major criticisms against solarpower facilities, such as wind farms, are unreliability and inefficiency. Solar power depends on environmental factors beyond human control and that makes investors anxious. These facilities also require areas with high amounts of sunlight, usually hundreds if not thousands of acres of valuable farmland and all for relatively little power production.
This is why, in the 1960s, scientists proposed solar-powered satellites (SPSs). SPSs have about the most favourable conditions imaginable for solar energy production, short of a platform on the sun. Earth’s orbit sees 144 per cent of the maximum solar energy found on the planet’s surface and takes up next to no space in comparison to land-based facilities. Satellites would be able to gather energy 24 hours a day, rather than the tenuous 12-hour maximum that land-based plants have, and direct the transmitted energy to different locations, depending on where power was needed most.
So, with so many points in its favour, why hasn’t anyone built one yet? Obviously, putting anything into outer space takes a lot of money. Many governments claim there simply isn’t any money in the budget for launching satellites into space, but in 2010, amid an economic crisis, the United States managed to find $426 million for nuclear fusion research and $18.7 billion for NASA, a five-per-cent increase from 2009. The most recent projections, made in the 1980s, put the cost of launching an SPS at $5 billion, or around 8-10 cents/ kWh. Nuclear power plants cost a minimum of $3 billion to $6 billion, not including cost overruns, which can make a plant cost as much as
LADY GAGA GOING GREEN ?
Lady Gaga steals the limelight at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards in New York, in a bright green wig and huge platform boots. The pop star was there to accept the prize for style icon of the year.