386,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 watts. By any measure, that is a lot of power, and that is the sun’s power output every second of every day (Fig. 11.1). To make this number easier to work with, scientists write it as 3.86 1026 watts, or 3.86 followed by 26 zeros. The amount of that energy reaching Earth, which is 93 million miles away from the sun, is 1.74 × 1017 watts, or approximately 1368 watts per square meter. By way of comparison, in 2005 the total power output of the entire human race was approximately 1.5 × 1013 watts! In that year, we generated a mere 0.009 percent of what the sun sends to Earth each second. If we can tap into this tremendous energy source, then surely the global energy problem can be solved.
KeywordsInternational Space Station Solar Power Geostationary Orbit Solar Array Photovoltaic Array
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- The National Space Society has an excellent online space solar power Web site: http://www.nss.org/settlement/ssp/. Another excellent resource is “Space-Based Solar Power as an Opportunity for Strategic Security,” report to the National Security Space Office, October 10, 2007. We also recommend Peter E. Glaser, Frank P. Davidson, and Katinka Csigi, Solar Power Satellites: A Space Energy System for Earth (New York, Wiley, 1998).