Bright idea or sci-fi?
It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel. Solar power plants orbiting the planet, each the size of 700 Canadian football fields, beaming clean energy down to Earth 24 hours a day so we can run our factories, charge our gadgets and keep our home appliances humming.
But for the scientists and engineers attending the International Symposium on Solar Energy from Space, a three-day conference this week in Toronto, there’s nothing fictional about it. In their view, building massive space-based solar power systems represents, over the long term, one of the most effective ways of tackling the double menace of global warming and peak oil.
“Space-based solar power is a tremendously exciting prospect,” said Liberal MP Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space, speaking yesterday at the Ontario Science Centre about the potential for Canadian involvement in the project. “This country has all the fundamentals to play a leading role.”
The Japanese are already leading the charge. Earlier this month, it was reported that Japan’s government, working with a consortium of 16 companies, had committed to a $24 billion project to have a 1,000-megawatt solar station in space within three decades. This would generate enough electricity to power 300,000 homes, though getting the equipment into space would likely require more than 1,000 rocket launches.
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