Solar power only works when the sun can charge it. And while the stars at night are pretty, they won’t be helping power your home. Or will they? New advancements in solar technology are helping us gather solar energy in space, allowing us to create effective and efficient electric power solutions.
All About Solar Energy in Space
Space-Based Solar Power, or SBSP, was announced as successful in early 2018 at California Institute of Technology. Now, not only was solar power environmentally friendly and easy to acquire, it could effectively be captured in space. The concept of SBSP was created in Isaac Asimov’s short science fiction story, “Reason” in 1941, and it’s amazing to think that his fiction concept could be the answer to electric power plants on our planet in the future.
No stop for the sun’s rays
In order to power up our homes using solar energy, we have to be facing the sun. Even when positioned properly our atmosphere reflects 29 percent of that energy back into space. There are many factors that limit us from capturing the sun when we need it —but not as many in space.
Not only that, in space, solar energy can be collected with no only solar panels, but with solar thermal. Using mirrors to grab the light and concentrate it, scientists can heat up liquids to turn turbines. In turn, these turbines can generate electricity similar to steam power, but with more efficiency.
How does it work?
In order to harness the sun’s power, satellites and solar power stations are launched into our solar system with the proper solar panels and solar equipment needed to collect solar energy. These satellites come in two forms.
With microwave transmitting satellites the sun reflects off large mirrors that extend away from the main satellite and reflect the light inward. From there the light is transmitted, uninterrupted, from the solar station and back to Earth. Microwave beams allow for the light to transfer safely to earth’s power system, the light beam only feeling about as hot as the midday sun. One solar-powered satellite can generate enough energy to power an entire city.
One downside to microwave transmitting is that its very costly. It requires many launches into space and assembly once there. Also, it has to be further away from earth to be safe, which means repairing could be costly. Its beams are also known to cause radio frequency interference.
Laser beam wireless
The technology and building costs associated with laser beam wireless satellites are much lower in cost and it has a self-assembly process. These satellites then use a laser beam to concentrate light into a photovoltaic cell receiver. This operation is similar to how solar panels harvest light from the sun. These satellites work in a group and can sit much closer to the atmosphere while staying in the earth’s orbit.
However, because they operate in the same way as the sun to a solar panel, they suffer from atmospheric losses due to rain and clouds. It also may require large battery storage systems on the ground to keep the solar energy collected. Also because of its laser, there is a safety concern of weaponization.
The Future of Solar Energy in Space
Because of its efficient ability to collect renewable energy and it’s low impact on the earth’s atmosphere, solar power in space is a very possible source of energy in the future. For now, solar energy is a fantastic technology we can utilize right here on earth. The benefits of solar energy for commercial buildings alone can help save the planet and save you some money. Contact Sol-Up today to see how you can own your own solar energy.