Studying How to Bring Solar Power Down to Earth

Solar power system. (Credit: Frazer-Nash Consultancy)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Solar energy generation keeps on becoming cheaper and more efficient, but some basic limitations will always apply: solar panels can only generate power during the daytime, and much of the sunlight is absorbed by the atmosphere as it shines downward. So ESA is working on the concept of collecting solar power up in orbit, where sunlight is up to 11 times more intense than across European territory, then beaming it down to the ground for use.

As part of that effort, a new project looks into designing solar-power satellites, which would become the largest structures ever built in space. Frazer-Nash Consultancy will study the modular construction of solar-power satellites, to efficiently dissembling them as they come to their end-of-life for reuse or recycling.

Supported through the Discovery element of ESA’s Basic Activities, this project was initiated through ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform, seeking out promising new ideas for space. Find out more about this and other recent OSIP activities here.

UK Government Commissions Space Solar Power Stations Research

Artist’s impression of how a space-based solar power station might work. (Credit: Frazer-Nash Consultancy)

Solar energy harvested in space offers the potential for an unlimited and constant zero carbon power source

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The UK government has commissioned new research into space-based solar power (SBSP) systems that would use very large solar power satellites to collect solar energy, convert it into high-frequency radio waves, and safely beam it back to ground-based receivers connected to the electrical power grid.

It is an idea first conjured by science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov in 1941, and is now being studied by several nations because the lightweight solar panels and wireless power transmission technology is advancing rapidly. This, together with lower cost commercial space launch, may make the concept of solar power satellites more feasible and economically viable.

Now the UK in 2020 will explore whether this renewable technology could offer a resilient, safe and sustainable energy source.

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