Astrium plans to build a demonstrator satellite system by 2015 that will collect the sun’s energy in space and transmit it to earth through an infrared laser to provide electricity.

Space solar power would be clean, inexhaustible and available 24 hours a day. The amount of energy falling on photovoltaic cells in orbit is greater than solar panels placed on the earth’s surface as it is unaffected by clouds, dust or the filtering effects of atmospheric gases.

Astrium CEO François Auque was quoted by the BBC as saying that the system is not yet at an operational stage, it’s just a test.

“In order to implement a solution, of course, we would need to find partnerships and to invest, to develop operational systems,” he said.

The company has already tested power transmission via laser in its labs, and is now working on improving the efficiencies of the end-to-end system.

“The receive side, the conversion of this infrared energy into electricity, is something that is progressing very fast and we are working with the University of Surrey [UK] to develop converters.

“The principle is to get a very high efficiency of conversion of the infrared [laser light] into electricity, and if we achieve 80% then it’s a real winner.”

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The demonstrator satellite being planned by Astrium will be able to transmit 10kW-20kW of useful energy to the ground by 2015, according to the BBC.