The Sun Always Shines in Space

How Space Solar Power Can Top Terrestrial Solar Power

The Sun Always Shines in Space

In 1941, Isaac Asimov was said to be the first ever to describe the process of using solar power in space and transmitting it to earth. The former professor and writer, presented the idea in one of his short stories, “Reason”. As terrestrial solar and wind power plants are limited to the time of day, and dependent on cloud interference, sunlight and wind speeds, space solar power is available 24/7, 365 days a year with no cloud or wind speed interruptions. As the Sun never stops shining in space,…

…space solar power is Earth’s ticket to providing unlimited and uninterrupted power to Earth, even in areas that lack adequate amounts of sun.

In the 1970’s, space-based solar power became an interest for exploration. Photovoltaic cells, satellite technology and wireless power transmissions were developed. After studies and implementations, the idea was deemed as possible to accomplish. But, unfortunately, after more careful consideration with limited technology available at the time, the project was concluded as unrealistic. It was set aside for future consideration.

In 1997, the space solar power project was brought back out to the table. And after putting it up against more advanced technology, fortunately, it was determined that scientists were much more closer to developing the space solar power system.

In April of 2015, Northrop Grumman and Caltech reached a research agreement providing $17.5 million for allowing solar power systems to take place. Scientists at the Chongqing Collaborative Innovation Research Institute for Civil-Military Integration in China were said to build a test facility.

Terrestrial Solar Panels

Terrestrial solar panels convert only 15–20% of the Sun’s direct sunlight into electricity. In addition, the sunlight that travels through Earth’s atmosphere is only 55–60% of the Sun’s solar energy; reflections and absorption of sun light occurs throughout earth before entering into solar panels. With the weakened solar energy coming in; cloud and weather interference; ineffective sun angles; night time; and the low solar panel’s energy conversion percentage, the world of solar energy definitely has tons of room for improvement.

Terrestrial solar panels are quite effective in preventing the need for greenhouse gases and limiting environmental pollution, but peak wattage is definitely limited, and a concern. This limitation can cost terrestrial solar panel users tons of money as a result. In many instances, the number of solar power panels needed increases depending on the location of a user.

Space Solar Power

The advantage of space solar power is that it provides peak wattage every second of the day. Terrestrial solar panels are limited to collecting power just 29% of a day. The sun always shines in space; it is always solar noon up there.

Once the space solar power system has been developed — as Japan says that they are working towards having this system in place by 2030 — this type of an unlimited energy resource can solve the many energy shortage problems around the world. Fifty percent of the world’s population live without electricity. Countries like Liberia, Malawi and Chad countries have the lowest access to electricity, due to capacity shortages, which leaves many of its citizens in the dark.

Cities like Noruega, Norway; Barrow, Alaska and Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, all receive less sunlight than other cities around the world due to their positions on the map. Space solar power would definitely work wonders for their situation. The people of Barrow, Alaska’s main source of energy is natural gases. Noruega, Norway uses hydropower. And Tórshavn, Faroe Islands uses hydroelectric and diesel energy. All of these forms of energy, on record, are clearly dangerous to an environment.

Space solar power can definitely decrease global warming, pollution in the environment, while making our ecosystem more friendly. With access to direct solar energy from the sun, this could possibly do away with the need for nuclear power, which threatens a nuclear meltdown, containing enormous amounts of radiation. It can also do away with fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gases) which puts pollution into the air. And hydropower, which lowers water quality and decreases fish migration.

As terrestrial solar panels are a step in the right direction for improving our ecosystem, and providing a substantial amount of renewable energy, it clearly fails in the reliability category. With space solar power, we can expect a greater capacity of uninterrupted energy for the entire world to use, to limit those dangerous energy sources we used today that cause global warming and environmental pollution. The future of space solar power is steadily working on becoming a reality, and when it happens, we can expect that oil and gas energy wars can become something of the past. And in turn, allow the entire world to enjoy the benefits of adequate green energy every single second of the day, if they choose, without conflict or worry of potential insufficiency.


Space Solar Power|National Space Society

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Tom Cartney
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