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JAXA: Solar Power

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Today, the aboveground use of solar energy has progressed almost to the stage of realization. Serious problems have been faced, however, such as the fact that solar energy cannot be used at nighttime or during precipitation, and the fact that nearly 70% of the energy is lost due to atmospheric factors. These problems, however, can be overcome by shifting the perspective toward space. In space, it is possible to use solar energy 365 days a year, regardless of the day/night cycle. There is also no need to give consideration to atmospheric obstacles.

Calculations taking the above into consideration show that it is possible to glean around ten times as much solar power in space as it is aboveground on the Earth. Operate such a system for 30 years, and it will be possible to generate 34 times, in real terms, the amount of energy invested in order to construct the system.

A space-based solar power utilization system is kind to the environment, unaffected by environmental conditions, runs almost no risk of resource depletion, and can capture 5–10 times more energy per unit surface than energy captured on the Earth’s surface. By concentrating Japan’s scientific and technological expertise on this issue, Japan may be able to succeed in developing a commercially viable version of this kind of system, thereby turning itself into an energy-exporting country.

At present, there are two methods of space solar power utilization, one using microwaves and another lasers (the microwaves and lasers used are at such a level as to cause no harm to humans). Let us look at each method in further detail below.

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http://www.jaxa.jp/index_e.html
(Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)