Countries today are investing more and more in solar energy after acknowledging the benefits it provides in the technological sector, thanks to microelectronics. This time around, Europe is also making considerable efforts to make itself capable of generating solar energy from outer space. The European Space Agency is planning to put these thoughts into action as they claim that the energy obtained directly from the sun’s rays in outer space is more efficient than that received after filtering through the Earth’s atmosphere. However, the concept being new, there are a lot of concerns circulating among researchers regarding the economical nature of the project and its viability in the commercial sector.
According to the recent statement released by the European Space Agency (ESA) regarding the subject matter, “Space-based solar power is workable and could support the path to decarbonizing the energy sector. However, significant uncertainties and technical challenges remain.” This shows that the project can be made possible, but there are a lot of uncertainties that are waiting in its way. For this purpose, ESA has introduced a new project, “SOLARIS,” that will serve as a research platform regarding the proposal and will explore new ways to make it commercially viable.
ESA says that the concept idea encourages facilitating the use of solar power satellites in geostationary orbit so that they can generate energy 24/7, but the problem occurs in their size parameters. It has been stated by ESA that the satellites should be several miles in size in order to efficiently put the system into use. Only then, they would be able to convert the sunlight into low-power density microwaves, and hence, we can reap the benefits accordingly. After their conversion in space, they would then be sent to the satellite receiver stations that are mounted here on Earth for further proceedings.
Sanjay Vijendran, who is the ESA’s lead for the SOLARIS proposal, said, “These are the kinds of technical questions that SOLARIS will look into, to explore further the feasibility of the concept, so that Europe could make an informed decision in 2025 on whether to proceed with a Space-Based Solar Power program in the future.” He further added, “As an added plus, any breakthroughs achieved in these areas will be valuable in their own right, applicable to many other spaceflight endeavors.”