The possibilities do not end there. While we currently rely on Earth-based materials to build power stations, scientists are also considering using space-based resources for manufacturing, such as materials found on the Moon.
But one of the big challenges ahead will be transferring power back to Earth. The plan is to convert electricity from the solar cells into energy waves and use electromagnetic fields to transmit them down to an antenna on the Earth’s surface. The antenna would then convert the waves back into electricity. Researchers led by the Japan Aerospace Audit Agency have already developed designs and demonstrated an orbiter system that should be able to do this.
There is still a lot of work to be done in this area, but the goal is that space-based solar power stations will become a reality in the coming decades. Researchers in China have designed a system called Omega, which they aim to be operational by 2050. This system should be able to supply 2GW of power into the Earth’s grid at peak performance, which is a huge amount . To generate as much power as solar panels on Earth would require more than six million.
Smaller solar power satellites, such as those designed to power moon rovers, could be operational even faster.
Throughout the world, the scientific community is dedicating time and effort to developing solar power stations in space. We hope that they may one day be a vital tool in our fight against climate change.
Amanda Jane Hughes is a lecturer in energy engineering at the University of Liverpool, where she is research includes the design of solar cells and optical instruments. Stefania Soldini is a lecturer in aerospace engineering at the University of Liverpool, and her expertise includes numerical simulations for the design and leadership of spacecraft mission, navigation and control, asteroids and solar sailing missions.
this article originally appeared on The Conversation, and is republished under a Creative Commons license. This is also why this story has no estimate for its carbon emissions, as Future Planet stories usually do.
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