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Japanese to develop $21 billion Solar Array in Space to Power 300,000 homes

16 September 2009 No Comment

Technology.am (Sept. 16, 2009) — The Japanese are preparing to develop a 2 trillion yen ($21 billion) space solar project that will beam electricity from space to around 300,000 homes in Japan within three decades.

billionorbThe planned solar station will produce 1 GW of electricity from its four square km array of solar panels in the heavens, which is enough to power just under 300,000 Tokyo homes. Since the array will be in orbit some 36,000 km above the earth’s surface, it will be unaffected by weather conditions.

The U.S. agency NASA estimate the cost of electricity supplied from an orbiting solar array could be around $1 billion per megawatt, which is too expensive to be commercially viable.

The Japanese consortium therefore has to find ways of drastically reducing the costs with the launch of a single rocket costing around 10 billion yen, the cost of the space solar station could be as high as 2 trillion yen, according to Koji Umehara, the Director of the Japanese Space Development and Utilization ministry.

The first step in bringing the plans to fruition will be the launch in around 2015 of a satellite fitted with solar panels that will beam electricity to earth.

The Japanese government, Mitsubishi Electric Corp., IHI Corp. and 14 other countries are now teaming up in the race to develop new technology within four years that can beam electricity back to Earth without the use of cables.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to have the orbiting space solar system operational some time in the 2030s.

In addition to Japan, Solaren and California’s Pacific Gas and Electric utility are working together on a project to deliver 200 MW of power from space over a 15-year period that begins in 2015.

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