It seems like a science fiction that a huge solar power station floating in space would provide a huge amount of energy to the earth. The concept was first proposed long ago by the Russian scientist Konstantin Tsveikovsky in 1920.
However, now, a century later, scientists are working hard to make this concept a reality. The European Space Agency has now realized its usefulness and is considering funding such a project.
Scientists predict that the first industrial-level energy from the project will be in the form of a ‘powerful energy beam’.
The biggest problem of this era is climate change, so a lot is at stake. Climate change is already being felt around the world, with rising temperatures. To overcome this problem, we need to radically change the way we generate and use energy.
In recent years, renewable energy technologies have made astonishing progress with better performance and lower cost.
But one obstacle to their use is that they do not provide a permanent supply of energy. The problem with electricity generated by wind or solar energy is that it is obtained when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining but we need electricity 24 hours a day.
Ultimately, we need a way to store large amounts of energy before switching to renewable energy sources.
Space power plant
, Photo source NASA
The benefits of space
One possible solution is to create solar energy in space. It has many benefits. A solar power station in space can receive energy from the sun 24 hours a day. The Earth’s atmosphere also absorbs and emits sunlight, so the solar station above the Earth’s atmosphere will have more sunlight and will produce more energy.
But the biggest challenge is how to send, assemble and deploy such large structures in space. The size of a solar panel can be up to 10 square kilometers which is equivalent to 1400 football grounds.
It is also difficult to use a light-weight structure in space, as the highest cost would be to send a rocket into space. One of the proposed solutions is to build a cluster of small satellites that can be combined into space to form a large solar station or energy generator.
In 2017, researchers at the California Institute of Technology outlined a design for a modular power station, which included thousands of ultra-lightweight solar cell tiles. He also exhibited a 280 gram prototype tile that weighed only one square meter.
Recent developments in the manufacturing sector, such as 3D printing, are also being investigated for their use and utility in space. At the University of Liverpool we are trying to find new ways to make lightweight solar panels.
These solar plates can support the spacecraft to run without oil, while reflecting light and heavy light as well as withstanding the pressure of the sun’s radiation.
We are trying to figure out how to put solar cells on these plates so that large and non-oil power stations can be set up. These methods will help us build space or power generating stations in space.
In fact, it may one day be possible to build and deploy units in space from the International Space Station or the future lunar gateway station to orbit the moon. I can be helpful.
The journey of possibilities does not end here, although we are currently relying on earth-based materials to build power stations, scientists are also considering using space resources for manufacturing, such as the moon. Content found on
But one of the biggest challenges ahead will be to transfer electricity to the ground. The plan is to convert electricity from solar cells into energy waves and transmit them to the earth’s surface via an antenna using electromagnetic fields.
This antenna will then convert the waves into electricity. Researchers led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have already developed the design and tested the orbital system that should be able to do so.
Much remains to be done in this regard, but the goal is that in the coming decades, solar power stations in space will become a reality.
Scientists in China have developed a system called Omega and they plan to make it usable by 2050. The system will be capable of transmitting two gigawatts of electricity to the earth, which is a lot of electricity. You will need 6 million solar panels to generate this amount of electricity on earth through solar panels.
However, smaller solar-powered planets designed to power lunar vehicles could be used much earlier.
The scientific community around the world is devoting its time and efforts to building a power plant in space. We hope that one day these devices will prove to be very important in the fight against challenges such as climate change.
Amanda Jane Hughes is a lecturer in energy engineering at the University of Liverpool. She does research on solar cells and optical instruments. Stephanie Soldney is an aerospace lecturer at the University of Liverpool.
This article was first published in The Conversation Research Journal.