Just before President Obama started his India tour the Indian Space Research Organisation and US' National Space Society launched a joint forum to enhance partnership in harnessing solar energy through space-based solar collectors.
Called the Kalam-NSS Initiative after the former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the forum will lay the groundwork for the space-based solar power program which could see other countries joining in as well.
The idea of a multilateral space-based solar energy program was initiated by an Indian Defense Ministry think tank, Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses. A report prepared by Peter Garretson, a US Air Force lieutenant colonel called up on the governments of India and the United States to initiate this pathbreaking project and make the space-based solar energy a commercially viable business venture by 2025.
Addressing the press at the National Press Club in New Delhi, Dr Kalam said, "By 2050, even if we use every available energy resource we have: clean and dirty, conventional and alternative, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, coal, oil, and gas, the world will fall short of the energy we need."
One of the biggest advantages of space-based solar energy is that it is not intermittent in nature as ground-based solar energy resource. An array of solar panels stationed in a geostationary orbit around the world will receive sunlight for 99 percent time of the year. Plus there are no losses due to atmospheric interferences.
This partnership between the two countries is likely to gain pace and strength as the United States has now removed some technology-transfer restrictions which were imposed on some scientific research organisations in India after the 1998 nuclear tests. Organisations like the ISRO and Bharat Dynamics will now have access to some sensitive and unique technology.
Researchers speaking at the press conference referred to this initiative as a landmark deal which would benefit both the countries. For the US, the deal would potentially create thousands of jobs as it is likely to contribute majority of the hardware for the project. For India, the project would mean enormous amounts of clean energy which it could use to electrify its rural areas and drive its economy.
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.