Building a Solar Power Station in Space

Building a Solar Power Station in Space


On March 22, the British government was considering a proposal of spending £16 billion (about 133.9 billion RMB) to build a solar power station in space according to reports. How would a solar power plant in space work? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this technology?
 
Solar power generation in space involves collecting solar energy in space and transmitting it to Earth. This idea is not new, and recent technological advances have made the prospect more accessible.
 
Space solar power systems require a solar satellite, a huge spacecraft equipped with solar panels. These panels generate electricity, which is transmitted wirelessly to Earth through high-frequency radio waves. Then, the radio waves are converted into electricity that is sent to the grid using a ground-based antenna known as a rectangular antenna. A space solar power station in orbit is illuminated by the sun 24 hours a day and can generate electricity continuously. The ground solar power generation system can only generate electricity during the day and is affected by the weather. With global energy demand expected to grow by nearly 50% by 2050, space solar power could be key to helping meet the world's energy sector's growing demands and rising global temperatures.  
 
According to reports, the space solar power station is based on a modular design, in which many solar modules are assembled by robots in orbit. However, transporting all of this to space is not only difficult and expensive, but also causes harm to the environment. Importantly, even just assembling a space solar power plant would require multiple launches of the space shuttle. While solar power in space could reduce carbon emissions in the long run, launches generate significant emissions and are extremely costly. What's more, the space shuttle cannot be reused at present, so it generates great waste. However, according to a recent Frazer-Nash consultancy report, the concept of space solar development in the UK is feasible. According to estimates, the project is expected to start from small-scale trials to an operational solar power plant by 2040. With extremely high initial costs and slow return on investment, the project will require significant government resources as well as investment from private companies. However, as the technology improves, the cost of space launches and manufacturing will steadily decrease. Despite the challenges, solar power in space is still exciting. In the future, technology is likely to play an important role in the global energy supply.