To Ohio University professor Don Flournoy, solar power used to be little more than a fantasy out of a science fiction novel. Now, that fantasy has become a reality — and one for which OU has received special recognition.
The National Space Society named the university a “Center of Excellence in Space Solar Power and Power Beaming” during the organization’s annual International Space Development Conference in Puerto Rico in May.
The NSS is an international, independent non-profit organization “dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization.” It supports space expedition both at home and abroad, with the mission of mankind someday living and working “beyond the Earth.”
The society lauded OU students and faculty for their progress in solar power, as well as a process known as power beaming, by which solar energy is captured and converted into a renewable form of electricity.
Flournoy, Scripps College of Communication and School of Media Arts & Studies professor emeritus, found his interest in solar power in the 1990s while serving as the education vice president of the Society of Satellite Professionals International Board of Directors.
Flournoy, having introduced the first satellite communication courses at OU, is also the founder the Online Journal of Space Communication, a cross-discipline scholarly publication hoping to advance the study of space communication.
“By 2010, the idea of reducing dependency on fossil fuels by using (the) Sun’s energy taken directly from space was gaining momentum, and had become a priority mission of the National Space Society,” Flournoy said in a news release. “With my communication background, I understood that sun’s energy was already being used by space satellites to power the microwaving of voice, video and data to and from space.”
Using OU’s Game Research and Immersive Design lab, students and faculty have been able to create visualizations and animations that could prove instrumental in shaping the future of solar energy.
Alice Hoffman, an NSS director and program manager for the NSS Enterprise in Space initiative, commended the university and noted in the news release that being named a Center of Excellence signifies that an organization provides those interested in the field with the resources necessary to better understand the often-complicated subject.
Hoffman also praised the work of Lorna Jean Edmonds, Ohio vice provost for global affairs and International Studies, who serves as chair of the •NSS Space Policy Committee.
A close working relationship with National Space Society Enterprise in Space is more important than ever for OU students. A number of student’s experiments in solar energy and power beaming will be carried onboard a spacecraft in the upcoming years, Flournoy said.
Although harnessing the energy of the sun tends to be an expensive and often-difficult venture, Flournoy said with continued development, it has the potential to be one of earth’s principle renewable energy sources.
“We feel this is a very important message to get out as the more people know about it and the more progress the government sees, the better off we will be,” Hoffman said in the release. “I am very concerned about climate change, and (solar power) is a lasting solution.”
To Flournoy, like many others, the world of solar power is more exciting than ever, with new technology paving the way for progress that could revolutionize the world of energy.
“We used to read about Buck Rogers being propelled into space above us. And now we can do that,” Flournoy said in the release. “Now we realize that the sun is a much cleaner, long-term solution to the production of electrical power. This Center of Excellence designation is a nod to the work we have done at Ohio University to help make this a reality.”