A depiction of solar energy transmitted by an orbiting satellite. Mmdi/DigitalVision/Getty Images
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With the energy crisis in Europe and the worst effects of global warming if the world does not move quickly away from fossil fuels, an almost limitless source of renewable energy could not come soon enough.
There is an almost unbelievable potential solution in the form of solar energy harvested from space. A plan by the European Space Agency (ESA) to harvest energy from the sun and transmit solar energy back to Earth is still in the testing phase, but the hope is to have a solar space farm that will produce as much energy as a nuclear power plant. power station, Euronews Green reported.
“[Such a project] will ensure that Europe becomes a key player—and potentially a leader—in the international fight for scalable clean energy solutions to mitigate climate change,” an ESA statement said, as reported by Euronews Green.
According to Space Energy Initiative (SEI) co-chairman Martin Soltau, harvesting solar energy from space could be implemented as early as 2035, BBC News reported.
Cassiopeia is an SEI project that involves using large satellites to collect solar energy while in orbit high above Earth. Soltau said the power generated could be almost unlimited.
“Theoretically it could provide all the world’s energy in 2050,” Soltau said, according to BBC News. “A narrow strip around Earth’s geostationary orbit receives more than 100 times the amount of energy per year than all of humanity is projected to use in 2050.”
The UK government is providing $3.44 million for space-based solar energy (SBSP) initiatives.
The modules for the SEI satellites will be produced on Earth and assembled and maintained in space by robots.
After the satellites collected the solar energy, it would be converted into radio waves and beamed back to Earth, where a “rectifier antenna” would convert it into electricity.
The satellites will be able to provide about two gigawatts each, about the same amount as a nuclear power plant.
A solar panel in space is able to collect more energy than one on Earth because it does not have to deal with the atmospheric barrier.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Solar Demonstrations and Research is a solar energy project that takes place in the United States.
Microwave beams have been shown to be safe and effective for humans and animals.
“The beam is a microwave, so it’s just like the wi-fi we have all the time, and it’s low-intensity, about a quarter of the intensity of the midday sun,” Soltau said, as reported by BBC News.
A potential problem with SBSP is the cost and carbon dioxide produced by launching many of the solar panels into space, possibly hundreds of times, said University of Portsmouth thermodynamics lecturer Dr Jovana Radulovic, who specializes in renewable energy systems. energy sources.
However, an environmental analysis by the University of Strathclyde, Cassiopeia, found that the carbon footprint, including launch, could be as low as 50 percent of land-based solar power.
Soltau said the project’s finances have become more realistic thanks to some recent innovations, but SEI hopes to get some private investment, as the UK government only provides limited funding.
“I think with significant investment and focused effort in this area, there’s no reason we can’t operate the system as smaller pilot projects in the near future,” Dr Radulovic said, according to BBC News. “But something on a large scale — we’re talking kilometers of solar arrays — would take much longer.”
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