NOV 22, 2020 12:56 PM PST

Solar Power Stations in Space Could Answer Global Energy Needs

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

While renewable energy technologies have developed exponentially in recent years, a major barrier towards their adoption is that they do not provide a constant supply of energy; the sun needs to be shining for solar and the wind blowing for wind. As such, could space-based sources of energy offer a solution? 

Reaping renewable energy from space is an attractive idea due to its potential for consistent energy production, especially from solar. This comes as space-based solar power stations could orbit and face the sun 24 hours per day. Moreover, due to their position above the Earth's atmosphere, they could also receive more sunlight to produce more energy than panels based back on Earth. Realizing the potential for such technologies, the European Space Agency has even started to look into funding such projects. 

Such a feat of technological development, however, would not come without hurdles. One such hurdle is getting the station to orbit. Current estimates state that such a station would need to be around 10 kilometers in squared area, or the size of 1400 football pitches- an expensive object to get to space. 

To solve this problem, researchers from the California Institute of Technology have proposed a modularly-built power station made of thousands of ultralight solar cell tiles. A prototype of these cells shows they could weigh as little as 280 grams per square meter, similar to the weight of card. 

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Liverpool are investigating 3D printing solutions. In particular, they are investigating techniques for printing ultralight solar cells on to solar sails that could both be used to create large, fuel-free power stations and propel an aircraft forward without fuel. 

Emitting power back to Earth poses another problem, however. Potentially solving this, scientists so far plan on converting electricity from solar cells in space to energy waves and to then use electromagnetic fields to transfer them to an antenna on Earth, where they can then be reconverted back to electricity. Researchers led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have already designed an orbiter system that may be able to do this. 

To conclude, while more work is needed before solar power stations may exist in space, more and more in the scientific community are turning toward this possibility to secure our future energy needs. Nevertheless, it may still be quite some time before stargazers seek solar power stations with their telescopes. 

 

Sources: The ConversationESA

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
MAY 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Oxygen Conditions Needed for Emergence of Complex Life Discovered
MAY 21, 2021
Oxygen Conditions Needed for Emergence of Complex Life Discovered
For some time, scientists have supported the ‘Oxygen Control Hypothesis’. The theory states that higher leve ...
JUN 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astrophysicists Discover Origins of First Structures in Milky Way
JUN 08, 2021
Astrophysicists Discover Origins of First Structures in Milky Way
A team of scientists led by the Centre for Astrobiology have discovered that the bulges we see in disc galaxies formed i ...
JUN 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Signatures of Life on Earth Remotely
JUN 21, 2021
Scientists Detect Signatures of Life on Earth Remotely
An international team led by researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland and the National Centre of Competenc ...
AUG 26, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
The Most Detailed Map of the Andromeda Galaxy taken by Radio Telescope
AUG 26, 2021
The Most Detailed Map of the Andromeda Galaxy taken by Radio Telescope
Sitting at 2.5 million light-years away, the Andromeda Galaxy is the closest galaxy to our own Milky Way. Since it&rsquo ...
SEP 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
NASA Announces December Launch Date for James Webb Space Telescope
SEP 10, 2021
NASA Announces December Launch Date for James Webb Space Telescope
Recently, NASA confirmed that the gamut of earth-based testing for the James Webb Space Telescope has been completed. Ju ...
NOV 03, 2021
Space & Astronomy
First Planet Discovered Outside of Our Galaxy
NOV 03, 2021
First Planet Discovered Outside of Our Galaxy
Exoplanets are planets that exist outside of our solar system, and until recently, they have only been found within the ...
Loading Comments...