Beaming solar power from space: A game-changer for global energy challenges? – The Times of India

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NEW DELHI: In a groundbreaking development, scientists and engineers are pushing the boundaries of technology to harness the limitless energy of the sun from space and beam it back to Earth. This innovative concept, known as space-based solar power (SBSP), has the potential to revolutionize the way we generate and distribute clean energy globally.
The Concept SBSP involves collecting solar energy in space using large solar arrays and converting it into microwaves or laser beams.These beams are then transmitted to Earth, where they are received by specialized antennas known as rectennas. The energy is then converted back into electricity, providing a constant and reliable source of power.
Recent advancements
Recent breakthroughs in SBSP technology have brought the concept closer to reality. In 2023, researchers from the Universities of Surrey and Swansea successfully demonstrated the feasibility of low-cost, lightweight solar panels that can generate power in space. This achievement has paved the way for the development of large-scale, cost-effective solar power stations in orbit.
Nasa’s role
Nasa has been actively involved in the development of SBSP technology, releasing a report in 2024 that outlines the challenges and potential of the concept. The report highlights the need for significant advancements in areas such as power transmission, energy storage, and launch technologies. Nasa is also exploring the potential of SBSP for lunar applications, which could further accelerate the development of this technology.
International efforts
Several countries and private companies are investing in SBSP research and development. Japan, for example, is set to launch a miniature space-based solar power plant in 2025, which will transmit approximately 1 kilowatt of power from an altitude of 400 kilometers. This demonstration project marks a crucial step towards the realization of a space-based solar power station.
Challenges and future prospects
Despite the significant progress made in SBSP technology, several challenges remain. The high energy requirements and carbon footprint of production and launch are major concerns. Additionally, the development of large-scale space infrastructure poses significant technical and financial challenges. However, experts believe that advancements in robotic technologies, improvements in wireless power transmission, and the arrival of SpaceX’s giant rocket, Starship, could make SBSP a reality. The potential benefits of SBSP, including a constant and reliable source of clean energy, make it an attractive solution to the world’s growing energy demands.

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