Solaris Plans To Beam Solar Energy From Space
The European Space Agency is set to approve a three-year study to investigate whether electricity could be beamed wirelessly from orbit
What Is Solaris?
One of the ESA's more ambitious projects, The Solaris Project attempts to investigate the possibility of sending microwave electricity from space to ground stations on earth.
Set to prepare the ground for a major decision on a full development programme of solar farms in space, it aims to undertake studies and technology developments, in partnership with European industry.
How Does Solaris Work?
Gathered far away in space, rays of the suns energy could be collected by space based solar farms and then shot down to earth in the form of microwave radiation.
This radiation would be collected on the ground as special stations and would be converted into electricity and powered onto the grid.
For this to work correctly, solar power satellites in geostationary orbit would harvest sunlight on a permanent 24/7 basis.
These satellites would have to be large, and would have to cover an area of kilometers in size.
How Would Solaris Effect Earth?
Due to the current global energy crisis, prices for electricity and most fuel based heating is very high, Solaris would aim to reduce the worlds dependence on fossil fuels and provide cheap, clean and limitless energy.
Several investigations into low-power microwaves on human and animal health would need to be undertaken and tests on aircraft and satellites would also need to be investigated.
In-space manufacturing and robotic assembly could benefit greatly from constructing solar panels in space and this would also need to see more study's into radio frequency beamforming and high-efficiency photovoltaics.
Whats Happening Now?
The Solaris solar plans are currently in proposal mode and will be put to the Agency’s Council at Ministerial Level on November 22-23.
This will allow Member States to make an informed choice on future implementation of Space-Based Solar Power and a possible Net Zero achievement by middle of the century.
The implementation of space based power systems could also have many other benefits, such as recharging solar powered spacecraft and solar-system-level power plants.
Downsides To Solar Space Based Power
There are several downsides to space-based solar power collection and distribution with one main factor being the cost of construction of huge solar farms and maintaining the technology.
The cost to construct huge solar farms is currently astronomical when not done so on an orbital construction platform.
Maintenance should be minimal for the first few years, however as with all robotics, space radiation degrades this over time and solar panels would need to be replaced.
Transporting large quantities of microwave radiation could also fuel speculation from some countries that it could be used as a space-based microwave weapon.
On the cost side of things, an average 10KW solar collection system currently costs in the region of £4,799 ($5,704), so its still incredibly expensive tech.
To provide two gigawatts of power would require a solar array in the region of 1km in size, roughly the size of 180 football fields or 170 international space stations.
When Could Solaris Go Live?
The simple answer to this question is sometime in the next 10-20 years, as the human race is simply not there yet on the technology side.
Many new technologies and existing techs need to be researched or improved to implement the movement of microwave solar electricity.
Some scientists and campaigners believe that with increased funding, greater political support and possibly the help of private companies such as solar city, it could be online within the decade.
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