Solar Energy on Earth vs in Space

Last Updated: October 9, 2019

Solar panels have slowly become more and more relevant. For centuries we are using fossil fuel. As a result, pollution has skyrocketed and is rising in charts. Sea levels are getting high, glaciers are melting and the local weather approaching extreme levels. Despite all this, most industries are still using oil, gas and other fossil fuels. We are poisoning our earth severely. It is inevitable at times, but we are looking at a green future. Luckily scientists have started working on renewable sources, like energy from wind and solar energy. This is good, but with anything new, there are a lot of questions. Today we will be discussing Solar Energy on Earth vs in Space.

Fortunately for the past few decades, people are researching and developing areas of solar energy. It is a free, clean and unlimited source of renewable energy. A big player in making solar energy mainstream was NASA.

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. Nowadays,
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Solar Energy on Earth vs in Space

We know that solar panels on our roofs convert sunlight into usable electricity in day times. But it can’t 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 doesn’t 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 radiations.

Key Differences, Earth vs Space concerning Solar Energy

  • 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, atmospheric shield, and the ozone layer. Above 22,000 miles up in the earth orbit.
Solar panels will be utilized all the time. Plus the sun is 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’d 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 energy and minimum 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 billion 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 it 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 rocket on every launch they are focusing on using the same rocket for 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 would you send electricity to the grid on earth but later they found the most efficient way. The idea is converting 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 mirror around panels for the concentration of sunlight. Mirrors are position in 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.

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