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US co plans 24/7 solar power using satellite

Rahul Wadke

Mumbai , Oct. 10

Electricity from a satellite orbiting above the Earth can help you cook your delicacies. Sounds like fiction?

But this could become a reality, if the California-based company Space Island Group Inc gets funds to launch two geo-stationary satellites by 2012. These satellites will produce power using solar cells and transmit the energy back to Earth as a microwave, that can be converted to electricity, says Mr Pranav Mehta, Space Island Group's Director in India.

Space Island has plans to sell power to India and China at 10 cents (US) per kilowatt hour without a hike in price till 2030.

Mr Mehta told Business Line that the proposed solar power satellite would use microwave power transmission to beam solar power to a very large antenna on Earth, where it can be used in the place of conventional power sources. The advantage of placing solar panels in space is the unobstructed view of the Sun, unaffected by the day/night cycle, weather and seasons, he explained.

He pointed out that, on Earth, the efficiency of solar power systems is 15 to 20 per cent but in space it will be around 50 per cent.

NASA has developed the technology nearly 30 years ago, but today the challenge is to put the satellite and the solar panels at an affordable cost, he said. The company looks to work with American aero-space firms. At today's launch costs of $5,000 per pound, the cost of Solar Sat energy is prohibitive.

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