Fantasy to Reality: Space Solar Power System

March 27, 2015

Space Solar Power System

Space Solar Power System
Graphical representation of SSPS

     Space Solar Power System (SSPS) also knows as Space-Based Solar (SBS) or Solar Powered Satellite (SPS) is the most ambitious and fanciful project in renewable engineering. It was first proposed by Physicist Dr. Peter Glaser in Science magazine in 1968. Dr. Glaser basically used theory of motion of Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) and wireless transmission of electricity. If implemented successfully, SSPS will turn milestone in the history of mankind. Our burden on fossil fuels will become zero.

The Theory:

    The fundamental concept is to have large solar PV cell arrays in space in geosynchronous orbit of earth. This array will collect sun’s solar energy and convert it into electrical energy by photovoltaic effect. This energy will be then converted into microwave radiation and transmitted to receiving antennas (rectenna) on earth.”

Related Space Operations:

  1. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency‘ (JAXA) is working on special project to build planet’s first Space Solar Power Station. JAXA has a technology road mapto complete this project by 2030. On 12 March 2015 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries demonstrated wireless electricity transmission of 10 kilowatts (kW) of power for a distance of 0.5kM. (Play video to know more)
  2. NASA has initiated ‘Space Solar Power Exploratory Research and Technology‘ program(SERT) in 1999 for research and feasibility studies of SSPS.

Advantages:

  1. On earth we receive only 1 kW/m2 solar power where as in space whole solar power (1365W/m2) can be utilized for solar-electric conversion.
  2. Electricity from Space Solar Power System will be available all the time because it does not come under earth’s shadow (as it is in space). However, it cannot generate power during eclipses which occur for few minutes in a year.
  3. Once installed, Space Solar Power System will become the most stable source of energy
  4. With SSPS, we can transmit energy anywhere on planet earth (provided we installed receiving stations in various regions) without having electrical grid network.
  5. There are no environmental impacts such as green house or waste which are major drawbacks conventional power plants (thermal, nuclear, etc)

Challenges:

  1. Space Solar Power System may be damaged by space debris which is available in abundant volume in space.
  2. Cost of launching satellite to place this system in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit is enormous.
  3. It is difficult to manufacture extremely large as well as light weight PV array structures due to technological limitations.
  4. The transmitted microwave beams need to be checked against adverse effect on traditional communication system, electronic appliances, airplane, human health and many things…
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