Dr. Don Flournoy is shown with an image of a former nuclear enrichment facility that he hopes can be converted into a solar-powered electricity generation site, utilizing not just solar panels but also the technology to gather and beam solar energy directly from space.
Dr. Don Flournoy spent much of his youth under the hot sun toiling in the cotton fields of Shawnee Prairie in Texas, all the while thinking about one of the popular comic strip characters of the time, Buck Rogers; Flournoy was particularly fascinated by notions of renewable energy sources in a futuristic world.
Flournoy has taken those futuristic fantasies to heart and is now one of the nation’s leading advocates for a revolutionary way of harnessing the power of the sun to provide a clean, renewable energy source on Earth.
Within the school of Media Arts & Studies, Flournoy teaches telecommunications– including satellite communications. Telecommunications are made possible by the conversion and transmission of sound by way of radio waves; many years ago, Flournoy began exploring the possibility of using similar technology to capture solar energy in space and transmit it to Earth receivers. His work continues today.
“We are working on the technology to launch solar collectors in space and then transmit that power to Earth via radio waves. We might not see it in my lifetime, but it will happen” Flournoy stated. He explained that most solar panel arrays on Earth are only optimally effective for four to six hours per day.
Collecting energy from satellites in sun-synchronous orbit and then transmitting that energy to specially prepared locations on Earth would increase the “solar day” and allow for more electricity to be generated at those sites.
Flournoy, a member of the Society of Satellite Professionals and the editor of the online Journal of Space Communication, believes solar power generating facilities that rely on sunlight— augmented by solar energy collected in space— could produce enough power to replace a nuclear power plant.
A former gaseous diffusion plant (a Cold War era uranium enrichment facility) in Ohio is under consideration as an ideal site for constructing the world's first ground solar/space solar clean energy production facility. Four major universities including Flournoy’s Ohio University and Texas A&M and are working on the technology to make that a reality. By integrating the energy in microwave transmissions into that produced locally by photovoltaic (PV) cells, the amount of electricity produced could be doubled or even tripled.
On the basis of this research, Flournoy and his colleagues are hoping to bring another source of clean, reliable and renewable energy to the world and turn a fantasy into a reality, just like the Buck Rogers’ adventures with which Flournoy grew up.
Original Article By Greg Shrader
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