Solar Wind: A Possible Alternative

Joab Camarena
November 9, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2015


Fig. 1: Illustration of Solar Wind Satellite (Source: J. Camarena - after Harrop and Schulze-Makuch. [4])

As the world continues to deplete its fossil fuels, the reliance on other suitable forms of alternative energy can only grow. Common renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, nuclear, and wind have been thoroughly explored, yet another alternative energy source has presented itself as a possible power house that can help support Earth's extreme energy demands. The sun's light is not the only source of energy we can draw from as it has been discovered that enormous amounts of energy can be harnessed from particles leaving the sun.

Formation of Solar Wind

Solar wind is built up of highly charged electrons and protons. Particles within the sun's most outer layer, the corona, travel at various speeds and the few particles that are able to strip away from the corona, travel at speeds that range from 400-750 km/s. It is these charged particles that make up solar wind and where large amounts of energy can be converted to usable energy on Earth. [1-3]

Harnessing the Power of Solar Wind

Two scientists, Brooks L. Harrop and Dirk Schulze-Makuch, have hypothesized that a solar wind satellite built with the right proportions can generate an upwards of 1 billion billion gigawatts of energy. The satellite's main components consist of a copper wire, receiver, and a sail. The satellite's charged copper wire, aimed at the sun, would create a magnetic field to snatch these highly charged particles coming from the sun. The particles that are captured are then directed towards the satellite's receiver unit, which produces a usable current (Fig. 1). This self-sustaining satellite would divert energy generated into powering its magnetic field and the remaining energy would go on to power a laser that would aim at energy bases on Earth. The drained particles fall onto the sail and are soon recharged by the sun and propel the satellite through the particle's repulsion of magnetic fields. The shortcomings of the proposed satellite lie within transporting the energy captured back to earth. Due to technological constraints within optics, there are no lenses powerful enough to direct a laser towards earth without it being diffracted. Once this is no longer an obstacle, creating a viable solar wind power satellite becomes possible. [1,4]


It is completely unknown as to how close we are in developing a lens powerful enough that accurately and precisely target power centers on Earth. Where this energy source becomes relevant is use within space as we continue to develop technology for exploration within space. Although we do not currently have the technology to effectively transport the energy captured by a solar wind satellite, it is quite possible to harness this energy to power space technology, where fuel sources act as an obstacle for deep space exploration.

© Joab Camarena. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] A. Hanslmeier, "The Sun and Space Weather," in Heliophysical Processes, ed. by S. S. Hasan and A. Ambastha (Springer, 2010), p. 233.

[2] R.E. Basher, "Basic Science of Solar Radiation and Its Ultraviolet Components," in Proc. Seminar on Solar Ultraviolet Radiation, ed. by R. Basher (New Zealand Meteorological Service, 1981).

[3] P. Bochsler, "Solar Wind Composition at Solar Maximum," Space Sci. Rev. 97, 113 (2001)

[4] B. L. Harrop and D. Schulze-Makuch, "The Detection of a Dyson-Harrop Satellite: A Technologically Feasible Astroengineering Project and Alternative to the Traditional Dyson Sphere," Washington State University, 26 Apr 10.