The government of the UK is looking into more ways to boost their clean-energy efforts and hence has commissioned research for space-based solar power systems. The concept of space-based solar panels has been around for a long time but this science fiction idea is still under research in several countries with researchers unable to find a way to practically apply it yet. Let’s understand everything we can about space-based solar panels and their limitations.
Space-Based Solar Panels also referred to as the SBSPs are photovoltaic solar panels launched into space to produce electricity and then transfer that electricity to planet earth for usage. The concept of SBSPs was first introduced as a science fiction concept in 1941 by Isaac Asimov. Isaac was an American writer and biochemistry professor known for his work on science fiction. Over decades, a lot of further researches have been carried out to make this fiction a reality. In 1973, Peter Glaser invented a method of transmitting power over a long distance (e.g: from space to the Earth) using microwaves from an antenna to a rectenna. However, till date, a lot of complications have been restricting this concept to become a reality.
A Space-Based Solar Panel has the advantage of collecting higher and uninterrupted solar energy. A considerable amount of energy is lost while reaching the earth through the layers of the atmosphere surrounding the planet. If the solar panels are suspended in space, then whether it is the day or night, cloudy or clear, they will produce the same amount of power throughout the day. However, the main hurdle for implementing this system is the considerably higher cost in transporting or launching solar panels into orbit. Besides the cost of transporting the system into space, another hurdle this system faces is the technology by which power will be transmitted wirelessly to the earth. Another factor that researchers have to consider is the question of any possible harm that the microwave power transmissions could cause for living beings.
Countries like Japan, Russia and China have been working actively to pursue this method and to make it practical and economically viable. In 2008, Japan made space solar power as their national goal. In 2015, China shared their roadmap to accomplish their 200-tonne MegaWatt level space-based solar power station by 2035. The United States’ Naval Research Laboratory took out its first test of solar power generation in a satellite in May 2020.
Now policymakers in the UK are taking out their initial steps towards the research of SBSP. Dr. Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency stated, “The sun never sets in space, so a space solar-power system could supply renewable energy to anywhere on the planet, day or night, rain or shine.” He further added, “It is an idea that has existed for decades, but has always felt decades away… The UK is growing its status as a global player in space and we have bold plans to launch small satellites in the coming years. Space solar could be another string to our bow, and this study will help establish whether it is right for the UK.”
The government of the UK is trying to set the policies for clean-energy strategy while Frazer-Nash Consultancy, an engineering and technology company, is working with international partners to build an engineering plan that will be capable of deploying a fully operational SBSP system by 2050.
While the SBSP system seems more efficient than the solar panel systems based on land with higher capacities, the cost of launching the system into space is high with greater engineering and system assembly challenges. The practical application of the SBSP system has still a long way to go to reach success and even longer to make its way to Pakistan. While researchers are on the way to make this revolutionizing system a reality, the prices of our traditional land-based solar panels are dropping rapidly. EBR Energy continues to provide consultancy and solar energy solutions for homeowners, companies, industries, agricultural landowners, and government and federal organizations alike.
Being one of the top solar companies in Pakistan with vast experience in the industry of solar energy, we have worked on one of the biggest solar energy projects of the country. EBR Energy is now providing free quotations for all your energy requirements. Contact us via email or reach out to us on social media to receive a call from us and become independent of the national electric grid!
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