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I will build a solar power plant in space

The researchers are reviewing the design of a module that collects and transmits solar energy to Earth, scheduled for testing in 2035.

Solar power plants in space will help Britain meet growing electricity demand.  Image:

Solar power plants in space will help Britain meet growing electricity demand. Image:

More than 50 UK technology organisations, including Airbus, the University of Cambridge and satellite manufacturer SSTL, have joined the UK Space Energy Initiative, which was launched last year to explore the possibilities of development. a solar power plant in space.

Under this initiative, the transmission of electricity from space could help the UK meet its target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in a way that is much more economical than today’s technologies. The demand for a full carbon neutrality by mid-century is part of a global effort to halt climate change according to the roadmap outlined at the United Nations COP 26 summit in Glasgow in November 2021. .

Speaking at a conference held in London on April 27, Martin Soltau, the initiative’s president, said that all the technology needed to develop a solar power plant in space is already in place. The challenge is the size of the project. The initiative to develop the plan is based on technical research conducted by consulting firm Frazer-Nash last year.

The experts set out a 12-year development plan to build an experimental robotic power plant assembled in orbit that would deliver gigawatts of electricity from space to Earth by 2035 at the earliest. They are also working on a modular design named CASSIOPeiA (for Constant Aperture, Solid-State, Integrated, Orbital Phased Array) developed by British international electrical engineering company.

The modular design of the orbiting power station means the project can be expanded beyond the test phase. However, even the test module is enormous, several kilometers wide, and requires 300 launches on a large rocket the size of SpaceX’s Starship ship to put the cargo into orbit. The factory will rotate at an altitude of 36,000 km above the ground.

According to Soltau, the function of the plant is to collect solar energy through large, ultra-light mirrors, similar to those on Earth. They produce electricity directly, which is then converted into microwaves through a radio frequency power amplifier and transmitted in microwave beams to Earth.

However, CASSIOPeiA will produce more electricity than any solar power plant of its size on Earth. Compared to a solar panel in the UK, a similar solar cell in space can collect 13 times more energy. In addition, solar power plants in space are not affected by the problem of interruptions like on Earth because the Sun does not shine continuously.

To capture energy from space, the system needs a giant antenna on Earth, called a rectenna. This antenna receives microwave radiation traveling from space and converts it into DC electricity for transmission over high voltage lines. Soltau shared rectenna would be like a large mesh with many small dipole antennas. It will be 7 – 13 km in size.

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