Space Solar, a tech firm specialising in the commercial development of space, particularly space-based solar power, has revealed its vision for the future of clean and sustainable energy – and it is in the form of a gigantic solar farm in space with nuclear plant levels of energy to share.
Space Solar will develop and commercialise Space-Based Solar Power, an affordable clean energy technology. We’ll help the UK and partner nations transition sustainably to Net Zero, delivering energy security and improving quality of life around the world – https://t.co/94wyYpqTML pic.twitter.com/ZoAfC40T9g— Space Solar (@SpaceSolarSSL) January 13, 2023
The International Space Station is, conveniently for journalists and science commentators, about the size of a football pitch (357 feet or 108 metres) end-to-end. But Space Solar’s colossal solar farm would mean a 2km-object (1.24 mile) orbiting Earth. While that might seem monstrous, the space-anchored system would beat its Earthly rivals for efficiency and size. Using only half the surface area of a terrestrial energy farm or offshore wind facility, Space Solar’s output could reach 13 times more than standard renewables.
With the gigawatt potential to match nuclear power stations then, the innovation is partly down to the work of Ian Cash, a British engineer, whose concept of the CASSIOPeiA Solar Power Satellite was adopted by Space Solar. He is the firm’s Chief Architect.
Massive investment by the UK government to the tune of £6 million (6.7 million euros) in UK-based projects and £5 million (5.8 million euros) for CASSIOPeiA, has also driven the work forward.
The current goal is to reach “20 percent of Earth’s energy supply using 600 satellites,” and establish a space solar farm by 2035, according to the company’s co-CEO and Executive Director, Sam Alden, who told the BBC: “Space-based solar power has long been considered the ultimate clean energy source. We’re really going to be able to make a material impact on net zero and a bright future for the planet.”
Why farm solar energy in space?
Space Solar is far from being the only business in this sector. As well as size advantages and efficiency benefits, farming solar energy in space has the advantage over Earth-based facilities of generating reliable and predictable energy quantities, no matter what the weather forecast or clock says, because in space, the sun always shines.
As well as a steady flow, the technology also offers the possibility of integration with less consistent sources of energy with reduced environmental impact, Space Solar claims, not only in terms of land footprint, but in terms of carbon footprint too, as well as mineral depletion.
Helping to make the venture an economically viable reality is the advent of reusable space launchers, which Interesting Engineering describes as having “paved the way for what could be a game-changer in energy production.”
Once the “installation” is complete, it is supposed to “beam” energy back to Earth using microwaves, meaning it can be a means of exporting clean energy with fewer land or underwater infrastructure requirements, such as pipelines and power cables, and less hassle when it comes to adapting the power for a wide range of purposes such as hydrogen production and water management plants, as well, of course, as the electric grid.