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Solar power stations in space – part 2

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Credit: NASA

Re our recent article on the idea of space-based solar power stations, a new article at The Conversation tells us the European Space Agency is also looking at this. Another day, another distant green dream, as these extracts from the article suggest. But at least they’re openly admitting renewables alone will never cut the mustard, either in scale or reliability of supply.
– – –
How solar power stations in orbit could become a reality in the coming decades.

Solar power stations in space could be the answer to our energy needs.
. . .
Renewable energy technologies have developed drastically in recent years, with improved efficiency and lower cost. But one major barrier to their uptake is the fact that they don’t provide a constant supply of energy.

Wind and solar farms only produce energy when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining – but we need electricity around the clock, every day. Ultimately, we need a way to store energy on a large scale before we can make the switch to renewable sources.
. . .
A single solar power station may have to be as much as 10 kilometres squared in area – equivalent to 1,400 football pitches.
. . .
One proposed solution is to develop a swarm of thousands of smaller satellites that will come together and configure to form a single, large solar generator.
. . .

From their own ESA link, we find this…

Why are solar power satellites not yet a reality?

Solar power satellites are by design relatively large structures and require advances in a number of key technical areas that push the boundaries of what is currently feasible in space. Some of these current technological bottlenecks include, but are not limited to:

Very large structures (manufacturing, deployment)

Construction (materials, modularity, in-orbit manufacturing, robotics…)

Power generation and onboard energy conversion (high voltages, efficient solar to electric and electric to microwave/laser conversions)

Thermal systems (efficient large radiators and distributed thermal subsystems)

Wireless power transmission systems (laser/microwave generation, control, focusing, pointing…)

Microwave/laser to electric conversion at receiving site(s)

Operations (station keeping, autonomy, safety, resilience and redundancy, maintenance and servicing, re-fuelling including with in-space resources)

Control (structures, formations, wireless power transmission beams)
– – –
Can ‘the climate’ wait for all that, assuming it’s even feasible? If so, the emergency myth is finished.

The ESA is running an ideas campaign…

For this Campaign we are specifically looking for new ideas in any of the following categories:

#1 Novel system concepts for space-based solar power stations for applications on Earth, the Moon, or Mars.

#2 Novel subsystem concepts or technologies with the potential to substantially increase the technical or economic feasibility of space-based solar power, with regards to any of the points listed in the section above.

#3 Novel methods of scaling and integrating space-based solar power into energy grids.

#4 Novel ideas that use the opportunities offered by in-space construction (use of in-space resources, elimination of launch constraints in terms of e.g. mass, size, structural requirements, volume, etc).

#5 New concepts for precursor in-space demonstrations.
. . .

All ideas will initially be evaluated on the sole criteria of novelty, meaning that they should clearly describe what is new compared to published concepts, techniques or processes. Novelty might include applying an existing, described, published concept in a new context.


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