O. Glenn Smith writes in the International Herald Tribune on the potential for getting our much of our energy needs from the Sun:
Science fiction? Actually, no - the technology already exists. A space solar power system would involve building large solar energy collectors in orbit around the Earth. These panels would collect far more energy than land-based units, which are hampered by weather, low angles of the sun in northern climes and, of course, the darkness of night.
Cost and efficiency have been the stumbling blocks to this becoming a possibility and unsurpisingly the breakthroughs have come from the private sector. Space Exploration Technologies and Orbital Sciences have been at the forefront of developing the technology to make this a possibility.
Clearly this is promising, but for the foreseeable future our energy needs will still need to be met through a variety of sources, with coal, gas and nuclear at the forefront. As such, government targets on renewable energies are damaging the market response. For example, the government has set unrealistic and damaging targets on the power we will get from wind turbines. Recently a report by an independent consultancy, funded by the Renewable Energy Foundation, undermined the government’s policy.
With the three main political parties closely aligned on imprudent carbon-reduction obsessed energy policies, we could have a monopoly in such bad policies (£260 per year, per household) in the future. And sadly when the government messes up, it doesn’t go out of business.