Solar power stations in space have the potential to supply the world with infinite energy.
According to the Forbes article written by Scott Snowden, “Giant space-based solar farms could provide an environmentally-friendly answer to the world’s energy crisis.” Solar energy might very well be the future of humanity.
Some time ago, plans were announced in Japan for a Chinese facility to test the theoretical viability of the orbital photovoltaic arrays. The arrays will be positioned in orbit, 22,000 miles above the Earth.
One of the biggest issues is figuring out how to get "an array of solar panels large enough to make the project viable into orbit." According to Forbes, the technology would be “essentially a single satellite, a platform, an integrated, monolithic platform about the size of Manhattan.”
One potential solution is creating modular, lightweight solar panel structures. Imagine a "solar net".
How would a Solar Net work?
The solar net would harvest electricity from the sun and then “beam” the energy back down to Earth. The electricity from the solar arrays is converted into RF electrical power (microwaves). Then, the microwaves are beamed wirelessly down to ground-based receivers that take the form of giant wire nets up to 4 miles across and installed across deserts or farmland or even over lakes. A solar facility of this caliber can generate a constant flow of 2,000 gigawatts of power. For comparison, the current largest solar farm in southern Egypt only generates 1.8 gigawatts.
Demonstrations and tests still need to be performed, but this concept shows promise in finding truly renewable energy sources, while still promoting energy justice and equity. How much would solar harvesting at this scale cost the end user? We're not sure! But we're excited to find out.