Today, solar panels are widespread and powering a population to a great extent. But for centuries we are using fossil fuel. And as a result, pollution has skyrocketed, and now we are on the verge of severe global warming. Sea levels are getting high, glaciers are melting, and the local weather is becoming extreme. Despite all this, most industries are still using oil, gas, and other nonrenewable energy resources. We are poisoning our earth severely. It is inevitable to negate nonrenewable energy 100 percent, but we are looking to a green future. Luckily, scientists have started working to take renewable sources into space as well. Today we will be discussing Solar Energy on Earth vs. in Space and its future.
A big player in making solar energy mainstream was NASA.
Solar Energy on Earth vs. in Space
There are many ways of capturing solar energy, but the most effective way is photovoltaic cells/panels (made up of silicon). It converts sunlight into usable energy, which powers our residential and commercial needs.
We know that solar panels on our roofs convert sunlight into usable electricity in day times.
But it cannot convert at night as there is no sun at night. The production efficiency gets down in cloudy weather too. But the solution we got is storing energy in batteries so we can use them at night too, and the life circle does not stop.
But still, we are not getting maximum benefits. Photovoltaic cells can absorb various rays of different wavelength but there are still radiations which are not generating electricity because of lower power and other than that, incoming radiations are reflected into space because of atmosphere shield.
Clouds, ozone layer, and water vapors also proved as a hurdle in the way of radiation.
Key Differences, Solar Energy on Earth vs. Space
- In outer space: Solar Energy is more reliable in outer space, but tougher to manage. It is the only reliable source of energy for longer missions.
- While on earth: Solar Energy is environment-dependent (clouds, rains and dust storms, etc.) This means on earth solar energy is relatively less reliable, but it is super easy to manage and upgrade.
The main Advantage of Solar Panels in Space
We always desire perfect efficiency and top performance from everything. Imagine if we put solar panels in space where there are no clouds, an atmospheric shield, and the ozone layer. Above 22,000 miles up in the earth’s orbit.
Solar panels will be utilized all the time. Plus, the sun’s rays will be stronger & brighter up there. This idea was put forward by a researcher too. He said the sun is much brighter there, so we would be able to collect more space-based solar energy. They would deliver up to 40 times the annual amount of reliable 24/7 energy.
Scientists call this energy “Stellar energy” because it would produce more than an earth-based solar system does.
This is infinite energy, a scientist has predicted that it would produce a maximum of 5 gigawatts of energy and a minimum of 250 megawatts. According to NASA and the departments of energy, it could be possible, but it is so much expensive, it is likely to invest billions of dollars. That is the only reason it not implementable. The reason why it is so costly is that it costs
$4,600 for each kilogram per launch in the lower orbit. It can come into being if its cost drops down to $400 per kilogram, according to a magazine.
SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk is trying to make it cheaper as much as possible. He and SpaceX are trying to produce a reusable rocket so they could save money. Instead of sending a rocket on every launch, they are focusing on using the same rocket for the next launch too. Cheap rockets would bring down the price of the overall launch.
How would space-based solar panels system work
Technology still needs improvement, but the way is pretty clean. There was a question of how you would send electricity to the grid on earth, but later they found the most efficient way. The idea is to convert electricity into electromagnetic waves. You might think how can waves carry power? But yes, it is true. We usually them for communication, mobile phones, etc.
Can we receive Solar Energy from Outer Space?
The sun’s radiation will hit on solar panels where they produce energy. Sun emits radiations in every direction for maximum efficiency, they set up mirrors around panels for the concentration of sunlight. Mirrors are positions such that they reflect radiations on panels. There is a “Sandwich module” which receives the energy and electronics in the middle will convert that energy into electromagnetic waves. The sandwich module is wide equal to nine football fields. The set antennas below would beam radio waves down to earth. A rectenna on earth will convert radio waves into electricity. That electricity will fulfill our needs.