Beaming Solar Energy From Space to Earth Could Soon Be a Reality : ScienceAlert | Space


The idea of space-based solar power (SBSP) – using satellites to collect energy from the Sun and “beam” it to collection points on Earth – has been around since at least the late 1960s.

Despite its huge potential, the concept has not gained sufficient traction due to cost and technological hurdles.

Can some of these problems now be solved? If so, SBSP could become a vital part of the world’s transition away from fossil fuels to green energy.

We already harvest energy from the Sun. It’s collected directly through what we generally call solar power. This comprises different technologies such as photovoltaics (PV) and solar-thermal energy.

The Sun’s energy is also gathered indirectly: wind energy is an example of this, because breezes are generated by uneven heating of the atmosphere by the Sun.

But these green forms of power generation have limitations. They take up lots of space on land and are limited by the availability of light and wind. For example, solar farms don’t collect energy at night and gather less of it in winter and on cloudy days.

PV in orbit won’t be limited by the onset of night. A satellite in geostationary orbit (GEO) – a circular orbit around 36,000 kilometers above the Earth – is exposed to the Sun for more than 99 percent of the time during a whole year. This allows it to produce green energy 24/7.

GEO is ideal for when energy needs to be sent from the spacecraft to an energy collector, or ground station, because satellites here are stationary with respect to the Earth. It’s thought that there’s 100 times more solar power available from GEO, than the estimated global power demands of humanity by 2050.

Transferring energy collected in space to the ground requires wireless power transmission. Using microwaves for this minimises the energy lost in the atmosphere, even through cloudy skies.

The microwave beam sent by the satellite will be focused towards the ground station, where antennas convert the electromagnetic waves back into electricity….

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