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Space-Based Solar Power - Technology & Market

The intersection of aerospace & energy is creating a revolution for our energy system

Space-Based Solar Power - Technology & Market

Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) or Space Solar Power (SSP) could contribute to solving topical issues in solar and wind energy generation, for instance: intermittency, seasonality, and storage.

It is a technology to: capture solar power with large satellites in space; transmit the power wirelessly to Earth; transform the wireless transmission back into power at a receiver station to feed it into the electricity grid.

At least three solutions can be utilised to wire energy to Earth from space:
1. Mirrors can reflect sunlight directly to a point on Earth to convert by solar PV system.
2. Lasers can send the energy collected in space through a high-power beam. Higher transmission losses are expected due to weather and atmospheric scattering.
3. Microwaves is another option to wire power as a beam. Lower losses are expected as it can be operated independent of the weather (to an extent, it is akin to a powerful WiFi).

Advantages: fully controllable peak & backup capacity 24/7, 365 days a year; less land area needed; flexibility as to where solar power is provided.
Disadvantages: high costs associated with the rocket launch; engineering challenge of creating a self-assembling megastructure in space; negative perception around transferring energy via microwaves and lasers; potential regulatory hurdles.

Progress so far:
- European Space Agency (ESA) in 2022 was allocated a budget to conduct technical research and feasibility studies until 2025 (SOLARIS project). Next decision is due in 2025.
- In the UK, the Space Energy Initiative was in 2022 announced to develop space-based solar power for the UK. The ambition is to build the first orbital demonstrator plant by 2030, and the first operational system supplying power to the grid by 2040. Consortium members include: Airbus, Axiom Space, and others.
- China in 2022 tested systems required for SBSP - a 300m line-of-sight microwave transmission and tested a full-system model of a receiver power station at Chongqing University. China's ambition is to deploy a 1-Megawatt solar energy station by 2030, and scale it up to 1 Gigawatt by 2050.

A number of StartUps are also testing technologies in this space, including Space Solar, IECL, Virtus Solis, Solestial, mPower, EMROD, Solar Space Technologies.

Sources and an opportunity to find out more:
- Schellhas:

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