MOSCOW, September 9 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia may keep its leading position on the world energy market only if it develops orbiting solar power plants, CNIIMash leading researcher Vitaly Melnikov said.
He recalled that the United States planned to deploy solar power plants in orbit by 2016. Japan planned to do the same by 2025. It says electricity generated in orbit will cost six times less than electricity generated on the Earth.
“Whoever takes control [of the space-based solar energy market] first will have an income bigger than Bill Gates,” Melnikov said.
If orbiting power plants produce cheap electricity, Russia will lose its main budget revenue item – hydrocarbon profits – and its national security will be endangered, the expert said. Current investments in the world energy market amount to $7 trillion, he said.
“The Russian space industry may play a role in the development of alternative energy resources,” the expert said.
There are two technologies for generation of solar energy in space: super-high frequencies and laser beams. The main advantage of laser technologies is the ratio of electric power transformation into infra-red laser beam (up to 80%) and high precision (36 meters, as compared with 20 kilometers for super-high frequencies). Besides, laser technologies make possible miniaturization of hardware. Energy transmitted with the use of laser technologies may be received in circumpolar areas of Russia, he noted.
Solar energy is superior to atomic energy, which requires infrastructure, state backing and security programs, he said.
There is a project of a space-based laser power plant already, but the preservation of market leadership will require a cluster of space plants, research institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences and higher educational establishments, he said.