Space-Based Solar Power
In 1984, the space shuttle will carry a ten-story-tall solar array wing that — remarkably — will be only four inches thick when folded in the craft’s cargo bay, but when extended will measure 105 feet long and 15 1/2 feet wide. The structure, which consists of printed-circuit solar cells “welded” to a super-lightweight plastic film, will produce 12.5 kilowatts and is considered a first step toward the still ecologically questionable large-scale ·generation of electricity from sunlight in outer space.
Improved Water Electrolysis
Three different “breakthrough” techniques for putting sunlight to work to extract hydrogen from water, for use as a fuel and for fertilizer and plastics production, were announced within the span of a month recently. But the proliferation of reported advances may be as much a reflection of intense competition among researchers as an indication of significant steps forward. Hydrogen produced by solar water splitters isn’t cost competitive with fossil fuels just yet … but, says one scientist, “the gap is narrowing.”
- With over four acres of glass, the planned 500,000 square foot Enoch Square Mall in Glasgow, Scotland will be ·one of the world’s largest passive solar glass-enclosed structures.
- Scientists say more-economical solar collector surfaces may be developed using 2,000-year-old techniques employed by the Chinese to coat swords and art objects with a dark, protective patina.
- A “Soviet Sun City” powered with wind and solar energy is being built by the U.S.S.R. in Central Asia, and will house more than 300 scientists.