Solar panels in space

There are several projects that aim to bring thesolar panels in spacein order to set up a power plant in orbit. In this page we will see where we are and all the updates about the so-calledspace solar panels.

Set up apower plant in spaceit wouldn't be a bad idea! The advantages are clear: the photovoltaic cells could enjoy constant lighting, without the risk of adverse weather conditions. As well as the advantages, the disadvantages are also easy to understand, the main one concerns the high cost of transporting thespace solar power plantwith the development of the related infrastructures designed to transmit the energy produced on earth.

The energy produced bysolar panels in spaceit would be transmitted on earth to a base that would retrieve it in the form of microwaves or lasers.

Wanting to analyze specifically the disadvantages, it is necessary to start from the costs and the transport of the material in space. Every kilogram of material that would go to set up theorbital solar power plantit would require a transportation cost of between 8,000 and 11,000 US dollars. A classic solar panel weighs around 20 kilograms for every kilowatt produced, regardless of the weight of the supporting structures. Assuming a singlespace solar power plantof 4 Gigawatts, the weight to be transported into orbit would amount to about 80,000 tons. To transport only the components into space, 1600 Space Shuttle launches would be needed just to reach thelow orbit.

To better address the cost problem, the engineers have developed versionsultralight managing to produce photovoltaic material where one kilogram of weight is able to return a capacity of one kilowatt. Always assuming onespace solar power plantof 4 Gigawatts, the weight to be transported would be reduced to 4,000 tons, with 80 launches of the Shuttle. With these latest technologies, the transport of materials in low orbit would cost 40 billion dollars. Admitting to find a financier, a further problem arises: from low orbit, the materials would have to be assembled and then transported into the geostational orbit to operate at full capacity.

Solar panels in space

While, on the one hand, the engineers deal with the problem of transporting and setting up thesolar power plant in orbit, on a different front, designers and developers developspace solar panelsincreasingly at the forefront.

The space engineerPaul Jeffe, joined by the US Navy team, developedspace solar panelslight and thin, easy to carry in space. Paul Jeffe's team worked on two models, the first in the shape of an accordion and the second foldable like a sandwich. From the tests conducted, to better face the launch into orbit, the most suitable model would seem to be the accordion one.

The peculiar aspect azig Zaggodsspace solar panelsaccordion would not only seem more suitable for transport but also more efficient in capturing sunlight.

The energy produced by thespace solar power plantit would then be transmitted to earth using small satellites. ThereAmerican Navyassumed the strategies already mentioned: laser rays or microwaves and here there are further disadvantages, the power losses with the transmission of energy to earth. Losses would be less with microwave technology. The laser beams would lose energy in relation to the atmospheric agents found on earth (clouds, rain, fog ...) while the microwaves would see a transmission of energy without particular setbacks.

Solar energy in space, when?

Despite the aforementioned disadvantages, the engineers of the US Navy are confident: the estimates made by theInternational Academy of Astronauticsclaim that thespace power plantsthey will be active, in orbit, within the next 30 years.

The goal would be to guarantee the earth energyclean and renewableto be transmitted also to remote locations around the globe that today still live without electricity.

For many, even 30 years from now,the game is not worth the candle: the costs would remain excessively high when compared with the benefits. There are also those who argue that this invention is just an excuse to explore space and horizons beyond the earth's orbit: investing less money and setting up photovoltaic panels on 5% of the desert surface of the globe, most of the energy needs would be satisfied. terrestrial.

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