At the same time that we are having to face up to the fact that fossil fuels will run out, possibly within a generation, we are also struggling to meet the world’s growing energy needs. For decades, scientists have been researching new ways to produce energy and many have focused on methods of harnessing the incredible power of nature, which is clean, green and inexhaustible. Solar and wind have been two of the front runners in this energy race but we have so far not been able to use those sources efficiently so as to be able to produce enough energy. In the past couple of years, scientists at Washington State University have been investigating the possibility of combining the two renewable energies to create solar wind power, which has the potential to be an enormous source.
What is solar wind power?
Solar wind is the band of charged particles which emanate from the sun’s upper atmosphere and travel towards Earth and other planets in our solar system. It is because of solar wind that geomagnetic storms are generated, which have the power to knock out entire power grids on Earth, as well as the stunning aurorae, or northern and southern lights. We still don’t know the full reason behind the incredibly high speeds of solar wind but thermal energy plays a part and magnetic fields in the solar atmosphere are thought to be a further accelerant.
Capturing solar wind power
Scientists are developing a vast 8,400 kilometre wide solar sail in order to effectively harness the awesome powers in solar wind. This sail would be very different to the way a windmill generates electricity from wind on Earth, largely because solar wind isn’t at all like the wind we are familiar with. The satellite would instead use a 1,000 metre charged copper wire to capture the fast-moving electrons. Some of the energy captured would need to be diverted back into the copper wire so that it could continue to create the magnetic field which harvests the electrons. The remainder would be transported to Earth via an infrared laser beam, supplying the world with energy day and night and whatever the weather. If successful, it is believed that a massive one billion billion gigawatts of power could be generated – 100 billion times the power the planet currently uses and therefore more than enough to power the entire world.
Challenges in harnessing solar wind power
Clearly, the potential for solar wind power is massive and could singlehandedly solve our energy crisis. However, the challenge lies in successfully transporting that power back to Earth. Currently, even the most powerful laser beam in existence would lose a great deal of energy over the millions of kilometres between the satellite and Earth so a tighter, more focused beam is in development.
It is indisputable that the power exists, the theory stands up to scrutiny and the potential is almost unimaginable, but the technology still needs developing and fine-tuning. In the meantime, companies such as AGL Energy Suppliers offer superb wind and solar energy options so that we can all join the renewable energy revolution.