A new proposal from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) lays out a plan that would solve the country’s energy woes for decades to come.
The power source? It’s actually a series of platforms launched into orbit around the planet with the purpose of collecting solar energy. Yeah, that’s right — a space-based solar energy farm, which is something straight out of a sci-fi novel.
JAXA’s proposal would commercialize the space-based energy farm by setting up a series of platforms both in space and on the ground. The platforms would collect light from the sun and beam it down as microwaves that would then be converted into electricity. JAXA thinks it can get this done by 2030, provided work begins on a functional demonstration by 2020.
Writing on IEEE Spectrum, veteran JAXA researcher Susumu Sasaki says the following about the space-based solar energy project:
It would be difficult and expensive, but the payoff would be immense, and not just in economic terms. Throughout human history, the introduction of each new energy source—beginning with firewood, and moving on through coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power—has caused a revolution in our way of living. If humanity truly embraces space-based solar power, a ring of satellites in orbit could provide nearly unlimited energy, ending the biggest conflicts over Earth’s energy resources. As we place more of the machinery of daily life in space, we’ll begin to create a prosperous and peaceful civilization beyond Earth’s surface.
The move would help Japan replace many of its nuclear power plants, which have become a major concern for the country in the wake of massive earthquakes that threaten to expose citizens and land to deadly radiation.