Solar panels installed in space will capture nearly 13 times more
REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, JAKARTA — Britain is seriously working on solar power generator from outer space. The country hopes to conduct a demonstration in orbit by 2035.
Energy Initiative Outer space The UK has brought together more than 50 UK technology organisations, including heavyweights such as aerospace manufacturer Airbus, Cambridge University and satellite maker SSTL.
The program claims that using the sun to emit electricity from space can help English achieve the goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This technology is considered more cost effective than other technologies.
The requirement to completely eliminate carbon emissions by mid-century is part of a global effort to tackle climate change announced at the UN’s COP 26 meeting in Glasgow in November 2021.
The initiative’s chairman, Martin Soltau, said on April 27 at the Toward a Space Enabled Net-Zero Earth conference in London that all the technology needed to build a space-based solar power plant is now available. However, there are constraints such as the scale and size of the project.
The idea for this initiative is based on a thorough engineering study completed by consultant Frazer-Nash for the UK government last year.
“This study concludes that this is technically feasible and does not require a breakthrough in the laws of physics, new materials, or component technology,” Soltau said.
The solar power design used is called CASSIOPeiA. It is a modular design designed by the British engineering firm International Electric Company.
According to Soltau, even this demonstration would be very large, several miles across, and would require 300 launches of a rocket the size of the SpaceX Starship to reach orbit. The design will launch 36,000 kilometers above our earth, with endless views of the sun and earth.
“The main function of satellites is to collect solar energy through large light mirrors and centering optics into photovoltaic cells, as we do on Earth,” Soltau said.
This generator generates direct current electricity, which is then converted into microwaves via a solid state radio frequency power amplifier and transmitted in a coherent microwave beam to Earth.
CASSIOPeiA will generate significantly more electricity than a terrestrial solar power plant of a comparable scale. Soltau claims that solar panels installed in space will capture nearly 13 times more energy than those placed on Earth in the UK.
Besides, unlike most generators renewable energy on Earth, space-based solar power plants will not experience intermittency problems. The sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow on our earth.
To avoid power outages during inclement weather, alternative power sources or battery storage must be available.
“We need other technologies, as we have no plans to add them. Net-zero would be very difficult and space-based solar power could provide an attractive option,” he said.
Renewable energy can meet more than 40 per cent of the UK’s current electricity consumption. However, clean energy demand is expected to increase over the next three decades, as transportation and heating infrastructure transition away from fossil fuels.
The technology would require a large Earth-based antenna known as a rectenna to receive energy from space. Rectenna absorbs microwave radiation from space and converts it into direct electric current, which is used to transmit high-voltage signals.
“A square is like a large open net with a small dipole antenna and must measure 7 by 13 kilometers (4.3 to 8 miles),” says Soltau.
Andrew Ross Wilson, aerospace engineering researcher from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, concurred that space-based solar power generation was a viable concept during the same conference.
“The concept has been around since the 1960s,” he said.