By Katie Jennings
Photo by NASA
Sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting, and extreme weather is becoming the norm. The negative effects of man-made climate change are here to stay — and they're getting worse.
One of the major culprits is atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal. Luckily for the Earth, the world's supply of fossil fuels is limited. And for the past several decades, researchers have been looking for renewable energy resources to provide power to everyone without poisoning the Earth.
Some scientists think humans could be getting clean power collected from solar panels in space and beamed back down to Earth in our lifetime, and some industry startups like California-based Solaren are predicting it will be a reality by the end of the decade. Not only would the energy source be continuous, but it would also be clean and unlimited (that is, until the sun explodes).
This idea may sound like science fiction, and at one time it was. The concept originated in a short story by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov. Asimov's 1941 story envisions a world where the Earth is powered by a beam of light that draws its energy directly from the sun.
The beam is controlled by two engineers in a space station. As the story opens, they are training a robot to take over the operation. The human explains to the robot: "Our beams feed these worlds energy drawn from one of those huge incandescent globes that happens to be near us. We call that globe the Sun ... "
The thought of harnessing the power of the sun with giant solar collectors in space was pure fiction 75 years ago. But now, the day of space-based solar power may not be so far away. ...more