A Global Perspective on Renewable and Solar Energy

Article excerpt

Humanity is in the midst of profound changes at the threshold of the 21st century. The disparities between the living standards of the diverse populations of the world are becoming more pronounced. Hunger and poverty compound the difficulties of applying mitigating efforts to alleviate the intolerable conditions caused by unprecedented population growth.

Industrialization and the increasing consumption of fossil fuels are increasing the risks to the global environment. The resulting destruction can be seen as akin to humanity conducting an enormous, unsanctioned, and globally pervasive experiment with ultimate consequences that are difficult to project, even with advanced computers, because they are no match for the complexity of the Earth's ecosystem. The concurrent challenges have grown large enough to affect vital ecosystems with the result that there is

growing international consensus that renewable and inexhaustible energy sources based on solar energy applications on a macro-engineering scale will be required to achieve any measurable global impact. Continued economic global advancement with the least adverse effects on the Earth's ecology will require baseload energy generation methods that do not rely on finite energy resources, are not under the political control of any one nation, ensure environmentally sound development, and meet economic criteria.

Now is the time to rethink the possible contribution that solar energy can make to meet the global demand for energy in the 21st century if the goal of sustainable development is to be achieved.

The current forcing functions for the inevitable changes already under way are the continued rapid growth of population, the creation of a "global village" as a result of the instantaneous dissemination of information processed into knowledge, and the pervasive desire of the majority of humanity to achieve higher living standards.

These forces will result in vastly enhanced demands for energy capable of closing the economic gap between developed and developing countries, as well as improvements in health, a reduction in the destruction of forests, increased availability of food and measures to ensure the safety of drinking water. To achieve these goals, increased use should be made of energy-efficient technologies by both industry and consumers. It will also be necessary to develop and apply advanced technologies utilizing renewable energy sources from Earth and from solar energy conversion systems in space.

The objective must be to engage in successful global development, avoid investments in an infrastructure that will be economically and environmentally obsolete, and to ensure that humans, instead of consuming their own environment, will keep the Earth habitable for millennia. To achieve this challenging objective, existing as well as new and emerging technologies based on the use of wireless power transmission make it possible to access and utilize large-scale, renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, photovoltaic, solar thermal, geothermal and ocean thermal energy conversion at undeveloped or underutilized sites available on several of the Earth's continents, and also the inexhaustible energy of the sun in space for use on Earth.

Wireless Power Transmission

Efforts to develop wireless power transmission (WPT) started with Hertz (1857-94), and were pursued by Tesla (1856-1943). Tesla attempted to demonstrate global WPT with a tall tower on Long Island, New York, in the early 1900's but was not successful. WPT was not pursued until microwave generators were developed, used today in over 250 million microwave ovens worldwide, and microwave rectifiers were successfully demonstrated with a microwave-powered helicopter flying at a modest altitude in 1964. A microwave WPT demonstration was successfully completed in 1975 at the NASA Deep Space Antenna facility at Goldstone, California. In this demonstration, a microwave beam at a frequency of 2. …