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Orbital solar plants 'can solve energy crisis'

WASHINGTON: The sun's energy, if harvested in space, could provide a cost-effective way to meet global power needs in 30 years with seed money from governments, according to a study by an international scientific group.

Orbiting power plants capable of collecting solar energy and beaming it to Earth appear "technically feasible" within a decade or two, based on technologies now in the laboratory, a study group of the Paris-headquartered International Academy of Astronautics said, without laying out a roadmap or proposing a specific architecture.

The study was led by John Mankins, a 25-year Nasa veteran and its former head of concepts. The academy is headed by Madhavan Nair, former chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation.

It was billed as the first international assessment of potential paths to collecting solar energy in space and delivering it to markets on Earth via wireless transmission. It said government pump-priming likely would be needed to get the space solar power concept to market.

Private-sector funding is unlikely to proceed alone because of the "economic uncertainties" of the development and demonstration phases and the time lags, it added amid concerns about continuing reliance on finite fossil fuels that contribute to global pollution.

It did not estimate a potential overall price tag for completing the project. Advocacy group National Space Society will hold a news conference in Washington today to publicise the 248-page report.



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