The concept of collecting solar power in space is nothing new, but It’s an idea that has yet to be fully tested due to a number of compelling factors. This idea dates back to the 1960s and is garnering further attention today as the limited supply of fossil fuels continues to dwindle and costs related to its consumption continue to go up.
Solar power in space would operate in much the same manner as a system on earth. For example, a satellite solar system would involve a series of solar collectors that would be designed to absorb energy from the sun’s rays. This power would then be transformed within the collection system for transmission to earth using a microwave transmission that would be received by an antenna. This power, in turn, would be usable for regular electrical use by plugging it into the electrical grid.
The potential advantages of collecting solar power in space include:
• Greater collection capacity – A collection system in space would be able to function without an obstructed view of the sun. If the satellite system were put into place in a high earth orbit, atmospheric issues realized on earth would not impede collection.
• Avoidance of seasonal problems – Solar power in space brings the advantage of not being seasonally impacted. This type of system could operate year round without concern about weather or even day or night cycles.
• Capacity – A well-designed collection system in space could have a very high production capacity due to the lack of impediments.
As intriguing as solar power in space sounds, this concept has yet to be fully tested for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, it does deliver a few cons that must be overcome before this idea is fully embraced. They include:
• Construction costs – At this time, the creation of a full system for solar energy collection in space has been deemed too expensive to pursue.
• Launch costs – The potential costs of launching a solar power in space satellite system are also prohibitive. In addition, system maintenance could further add to costs.
• Space debris – While a collection system in space would have an unobstructed view of the sun for collection, it would not be free from potential hazards. This type of collection system could be damaged and even rendered useless by space debris.
Solar power in space is an idea that hasn’t quite gone away. Although it is considered too costly to pursue at this time, many researchers think as fossil fuel supplies continue to dwindle, this concept will reemerge as a viable alternative.