Solar is proving to be the top option to replace our dependency on fossil fuels. The world prioritizes the shift to clean, renewable energy to (hopefully) avoid a climate disaster. Solar’s limitations, as well as the fact that the cloud cover, let alone darkness, lowers its availability, are frequently cited by proponents of fossil fuel energy sources.
“During the day on Earth, solar power output is inconsistent,” explains Stephen Way, who works as a senior consultant at the Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd. “Light and dark affect solar panels, and clouds can reduce the quantity of solar energy that reaches them.” Which begs the question of where solar panels could be placed to avoid these hazards entirely. Scientists are currently hunting for an uninterruptible source of solar energy beyond the clouds. In space, to be precise.
“Satellites in space are not impacted by day/night cycles, atmosphere, or the weather in the same way that terrestrial satellites are so that they can collect solar electricity continuously,” adds Way.
Solar energy collection
Theoretically, it’s a simple concept. Solar-powered satellites already shift around in Earth’s orbits regularly. Plans are being developed to increase this gathering capacity and then channel the energy back to the Earth’s surface as a continual, on-demand power supply.
“Obviously, photovoltaic panels are the most significant component of a satellite,” adds Way. “The photons are captured by the solar panels and converted into electrons. This is the kind that can be returned to Earth through a beam.” This energy would be transmitted wirelessly down to Earth via a big antenna to a receiver, known as a rectenna, where it would be transformed into current and disseminated.
Way says, “These beams could be microwave beams.” “People may be frightened about having such a large beam, but they will not harm you.” Safety limitations control the maximum intensity of the beam.” Each satellite design so far presented seeks to generate roughly 3.4GW of electricity, transmit microwave power at about 2.45GHz with a peak beam intensity of approximately 230W/m2 (one quarter the intensity of midday sunlight), and deliver around 2GW of the electrical power to the grid. The antenna must always face Earth, and the rectenna must be broad to acquire the microwave beam.
There are several speculative severe concepts for solar satellites in circulation. They share a lot of characteristics:
- Solar photovoltaics with a high degree of concentration;
- Returning to Earth by wireless transmission;
- Assembling robots
A strategy for getting rid of them when they die.
“These solar satellite plants would be immense – each weighing numerous thousand tonnes – so launching them into space would require a significant number of resources,” Way explains. On the other hand, their potential provides a vast supply of clean energy for the entire planet.