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Clean Power

Caltech Solar Power Prototype Rides SpaceX Rocket Into Orbit (With Video)

Solar power from space is closer to reality after Caltech sent a prototype system into orbit on January 3 to test the technology.

Solar power means different things to different people. To some, it is an array of solar panels on the roof. To others, it is acres and acres of solar panels stretching across the landscape with tracking devices that keep them pointed toward the sun like mechanical sunflowers. Both have their uses but both have one limiting factor — they only produce significant amounts of solar power when the sun is shining. After the sun sets, the electrical grid has to rely on other sources to keep the lights on — wind, hydro, storage batteries, or thermal generators.

In 2011, Donald Bren, an influential real estate developer in southern California, read an article in Popular Science about space based solar power — a system that harvests sunlight while in orbit and beams it down to Earth wirelessly 24 hours a day. In 2013, he donated $100 million to Caltech to begin researching space based solar power. That donation led directly to the creation of the Caltech Space Solar Power Project.

Ten years later, Bren and Caltech have realized their dream. On January 3, the first Caltech prototype system, named Momentus Vigoride, was carried into space aboard a SpaceX Transport 6 rocket. 10 minutes later it was in orbit. “For many years, I’ve dreamed about how space-based solar power could solve some of humanity’s most urgent challenges,” Bren says.

Subscribers can read the full article here: Caltech Solar Power Prototype Rides SpaceX Rocket Into Orbit (With Video)

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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