Solar farms in space ‘could provide a reliable source of renewable energy for the grid’

Experts have claimed that solar farms in space can provide a reliable source of renewable energy to the grid and provide an alternative nuclear power option in the future.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking into a plan that would take advantage of the fact that the sun never stops shining in space, and that sunlight is more intense there than on Earth.

It would involve assembling a satellite several miles long in orbit with a solar array – which the Sun will illuminate more than 99 percent of the time.

The energy will be sent back to Earth via high frequency radio waves and the energy will be produced day and night regardless of the weather on our planet’s surface.

Proponents of the idea say a single plant might be able to deliver about 2 gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid, roughly the same as a nuclear power plant here on Earth.

Technology: Solar farms in space could provide a reliable source of renewable energy to the grid and provide an alternative nuclear power option in the future, experts claim

The energy will be sent back to Earth via high frequency radio waves (shown above)

The energy will be sent back to Earth via high frequency radio waves (shown above)

The Sun: The Basics

The sun is the star at the core of the solar system, an almost entire sphere of hot plasma, radiating energy.

It has a diameter of 1.39 million km, and a mass of 330,000 times the mass of the Earth.

Three-quarters of a star is made up of hydrogen, followed by helium, oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.

It is a G-type main sequence star and is sometimes called a yellow dwarf.

The Sun formed from the gravitational collapse of matter into a large molecular cloud that gathered in the center.

The rest was flattened into an orbital disk that shaped everything else.

facts and figures

Noun: Sun

known planets: eight

Spectral type: G2

distance to earth: 150 million km

Distance from the center of the galaxy: 25800 light years

Mass: 1.9885 x 10^30 kg

radius: 696,342 km

Glitter: 3.828 x 10^26 W

temperature: 9,929 p

age: 4.6 billion years

Recent studies indicate that the concept, called space solar, is theoretically viable and could support the path to decarbonizing the energy sector.

However, experts say that great uncertainties and technical challenges remain, which is why a research and development program known as SOLARIS has been proposed.

The physics involved means that these satellites must be large, about several kilometers in size, and the same is true of the Rectinas clusters on Earth’s surface.

This, in turn, will require technical advances in areas such as in-space manufacturing and automated assembly, high-efficiency photovoltaics, high-power electronics, and radiofrequency beamforming.

More research also needs to be done to confirm the effects of low-energy microwaves on human and animal health and compatibility with aircraft and satellites.

But the technology could offer an “alternative option to nuclear power,” according to Dr Sanjay Vijendran, who has been studying it for the European Space Agency.

These are the technical questions that SOLARIS will consider, to further explore the feasibility of this concept, so that Europe can make an informed decision in 2025 about whether to continue with its space-based solar program in the future, he added.

As an added advantage, any breakthroughs made in these areas would be valuable in their own right, and could be applied to many other spaceflight endeavors.

What often goes wrong is comparing the concept to terrestrial solar, when space solar really offers new properties such as base load power that actually complement rather than compete with intermittent sources such as terrestrial solar and wind.

Recent studies indicate that the concept, called space solar, is theoretically viable and could support a pathway to decarbonize the energy sector

Recent studies indicate that the concept, called space solar, is theoretically viable and could support a pathway to decarbonize the energy sector

Proponents of the idea say a single plant might be able to deliver about 2 gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid, roughly the same as a nuclear power plant here on Earth.

Proponents of the idea say a single plant might be able to deliver about 2 gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid, roughly the same as a nuclear power plant here on Earth.

In that sense, they could offer an alternative nuclear power option in the future — studies show that a space-based solution ends up surprisingly competitive.

The proposal for the program comes at a time when global interest in space solar energy has been at its peak for decades, with in-orbit demonstrations being prepared in the United States, China and Japan.

The United Kingdom has set up the Space Energy Initiative to develop space solar energy, while the European Commission is funding a project looking at large, lightweight reflectors that redirect sunlight to solar farms on Earth called SOLSPACE.

“Given the climate and energy crises, and the rapid steps we are taking in space capabilities, now is the time to check if space solar can be part of the solution – it’s the responsible thing to do,” Dr. Vijendran added.

A report prepared by the engineering consultancy firm Fraser Nash It has been estimated that the first solar power plant in space could be online by 2040 at a cost of around £16 billion.

Each additional satellite after that could cost around £5 billion, the report added.

It estimates that these will save energy at £50 per megawatt-hour, roughly the same as other renewables.

Meanwhile, the 3.2 gigawatt Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk is expected to cost £20-30 billion and will be able to generate electricity for six million homes for up to 60 years.

Solar Energy Explanation: Energy from sunlight is converted into electricity

Solar panels convert energy from the sun into electrical energy (stock image)

Solar panels convert energy from the sun into electrical energy (stock image)

Solar energy is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity.

There are two ways to generate solar energy.

Photovoltaic cells — the type of solar panel you might see included in a calculator — are able to convert light directly into electrical energy.

However, in CSP systems, mirrors or lenses are used first to collect and focus sunlight that falls over a large area – producing heat that can be used to power steam turbines and generate electricity.

The productivity of solar panels depends on the sunlight they receive at a particular location – a factor that depends on both latitude and climate.

Optimal locations for solar farms include arid tropics and subtropics, where deserts at these low latitudes are often clear and exposed to 10 hours of sunlight each day.

According to NASA, the eastern part of the Sahara – the Libyan Desert – is the sunniest place on Earth.

Solar energy accounted for 1.7 percent of the world’s electricity production in 2017, and has been growing at a rate of 35 percent each year.

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