Solar energy in space: sense or nonsense?

According to various popular scientific websites, it is the solution for the world energy shortage: solar panels in space. What are the pros and cons of using satellites that collect solar energy in space? An analysis.

French aerospace giant Astrium's proposal for space solar power plants.

What will the solar power plants look like in practice?
A solar power plant floats above the earth to catch the sunlight in space. Because unfortunately no space elevator exists, the collected solar energy must be sent wirelessly to earth and converted there into electricity. In various plans, microwaves (known from the magnetron), a kind of radio waves, are proposed for this purpose.
In the proposed configuration, the solar panels will be placed in geostationary orbit (GEO) around the Earth. This altitude, at around 35 786 km above sea level, has the advantage that the satellite will always hover over the same spot. GEO is of course a popular place for communication satellites, for example; at the moment many satellites are already floating in GEO.

What are the advantages of a solar power plant in space?

  • The satellite receives sunlight almost 24 hours a day, so that the solar plant can supply power almost continuously, even if solar panels on the earth's surface end up in the night zone. The satellite can maneuver in such a way that the solar panel is always perpendicular to the sun and thus achieves maximum efficiency. Because of this effect alone, a solar panel in space delivers more than twice as much power as a solar panel on the equator, the most favorable location, geographically.
  • Atmospheric gases do not absorb solar radiation. It is estimated that this yields about 44% capital gains. This advantage is even greater compared to non-desert areas where it is often cloudy.
  • In the absence of an atmosphere, there are no problems due to bad weather conditions.
  • No land is needed to place the solar panels.
  • The wireless transmission allows the solar plant to send energy to the points where there is a shortage of electricity, for example in parts of the world where it is evening or winter.
  • Each country can place its own solar plant in orbit around the earth. As a result, the country is no longer dependent on other countries. This is a major advantage for Japan, for example.

.. and the cons?

  • Space is an extremely grueling environment. Cosmic particles move through space at a percentage of the speed of light and leave little harm to solar panels. In practice, this halves their lifespan.
  • Countless micrometeorites move through the universe at tens of kilometers per second. These also damage a solar panel.
  • A heavy solar flare can roast insufficiently protected satellites.
  • The necessary power (fifteen to fifty percent) is lost when the solar energy is sent to Earth in the form of microwaves.
  • Launch costs are high. To escape the Earth's gravitational field, a minimum of 17.4 kWh of energy per kg mass is required. Added to this is the hefty price for the rocket and the fact that a rocket is far from efficient.
  • Repairs require an expensive manned flight, although you could in principle solve this by deploying remote-controlled robots.
  • A receiving station for the radiation must be set up. This must be set up sufficiently far from civilization and have an enormous diameter: around 10 km in diameter. In comparison, such an area, when covered with solar panels in the Sahara, is already large enough to provide one third of the Netherlands with energy. We also do not know whether this microwave radiation does not have harmful biological consequences. Experiments in Wageningen have shown that at least the high-frequency radiation from the WiFi router possible unpleasant consequences for plants has.
  • If a concentrated bundle is chosen, for example on an area of several hectares, then safety risks arise. If a hacker decides to aim the bundle at Goldman Sachs headquarters for fun, or worse, elsewhere, the consequences are similar to being baked in a microwave oven.

The French aerospace company Astrium developed this concept.

To do or not to do?
In any case, the current proposed form is nonsensical. There will either have to be a safe, but enormously large construction for safe power transmission, or an unsafe, concentrated directional antenna. It is more sensible to install solar power stations floating on the sea or in the desert (plus on the roofs of houses and businesses). This is much cheaper.

If the transmission problem is solved with the advent of a space elevator, it will be interesting. Enormous amounts of solar panels could then be connected to the space elevator - carbon nanofibres conduct electricity reasonably well.

More sensible is the idea of extracting minerals from the moon or asteroids, powered by solar energy. The molten ores can be launched on a maglev rail towards Earth or, even smarter, used on the moon to fabricate spacecraft that can colonize the rest of the solar system. Very energy-consuming manufacturing processes - such as the manufacture of carbon nanofibers and artificial diamonds - can also be carried out in space, using solar energy.

10 thoughts on “Zonne-energie in de ruimte: zin of onzin?”

  1. Just for the fact that we can microwave Goldman Sachs headquarters tends to say do!

    But idd, it is not that there is a shortage of space on the earth for solar panels, so perhaps first fill some deserts and spots in the ocean with solar panels and then see how fast the technology is progressing.

  2. All energy that would be generated in space, energy is energy that would never reach Earth in a normal situation. This disrupts the energy balance of the earth on a new scale and in my opinion it is the dumbest thing we can do because we do not understand, let alone oversee the consequences.

    This idea is no different from:

    Terra watts of chemical energy stored in dead plants over billions of years to release as heat over a short period of 200 years.

    Creating a nice blanket in our atmosphere of greenhouse gases, which in all probability also causes the earth to warm up.

    Create a total of at least thousands of square kilometers of black surfaces (in the form of roads and roofs) that absorb solar rays (and create extra heat) much more than the surface that was naturally there and in all likelihood was not black.

    When do we just look at our footprint, how many people have to come to earth, how far are we going to stretch the capacity of the earth to support people? And at the cost of what? Biodiversity, quality of life?

    As long as “emergency” funds of 1000 billion euros are created to be able to “save” one country (and supposedly the euro and the entire European Union) but less than one percent of that is available for large-scale sustainable and sensible energy supplies, I really think we just keep going until it's too late.

    The world needs a revolution first, a revolution of dissenters. Science is the holy grail for humanity. as long as that revolution has not happened, we will simply maintain this current way of life for as long as possible.

    Killing fellow humans in wars for resources, ideas and land, our current ANTI "economic" systems, deliberately created shortages and miserable situations are just examples of an underdeveloped immature society that is totally addicted and dependent on the energy from dead plants.

    Turn everything over !!
    Get rid of the idea of a president and / or other ruler who has the right boyfriends / money / corruption and / or family.

    Put a group of 100 educated and educated people (professors, scientists, mathematicians, engineers and me part philosophers together and let them work out the plans on the earthly level. No more creating prosperity in place X at the expense of place Y .. Think in the importance of the world.

    What would an alien race think if they saw us at all? anyway, this is all offtopic my apologies i happen to be home sick and gloomy today.

  3. Wow, nice story.
    Considering all facets and influences of human evolution and technical revolution.
    But now for something different, how the hell is it possible that we are here now?
    If “now” actually does exist, because maybe we are living our past and where else does the deja vu feeling come from?
    But this is different matter of course ...
    or not…
    What is the real time and who is in charge of how long we can sing it out here until we ground ourselves by backward rashness.
    Countries with the most silly governments enabled by the "science" to start a nuclear program.
    Who watches the watchers?
    In the history of the earth (our home base) there have been more disasters that can be traced geologically.
    This, too, has survived the earth, does not alter the fact that if we have a major fuckup we will all bleed and humanity will physically lose 70% of its human inhabitants according to the predictions.
    The prediction is that from space a strong energy will work on the earth which will change everything we are used to now.
    This could be;
    * perception of time
    * environment (no more seasons)
    * population movements
    * peace
    * suddenly more land available
    Thus a number of predictions.
    Then there is just the latest news, will I wonder what the latest news is? , that Einstein was wrong and that there is matter that really moves faster than light.
    Think about thoughts? how fast do these actually go?
    These are not hindered by distance or dimensions through time and space.
    Now we are getting somewhere.
    Can we also do something with this?
    I think so (actually know for sure)
    Creating our thoughts can turn things around.
    Can bring peace or change course.
    It has happened to us many times, but we still don't get it.
    It's much simpler when we think, start with a smile inside.
    Then take a deep breath in through your nose and relax out through the mouth (take your time for this) and do this 3x
    Try to silence your thoughts for 5 minutes and end with the 3 breaths.
    If you do have thoughts (everyone has these) then place these thoughts on a white cloud in the beautiful blue sky that you see in front of you. (You can close your eyes by the way)
    Do this every day and you will get more and more life energy, you will also become calmer, more understanding + you reset the hard drive in your upper room.
    It is full of viruses and worthless files.
    If after a few weeks you notice that the clusters are already quite defragmented, space will become available again where you can download a number of useful files.
    You type in a question in your mind (during meditation)
    and you wait without expectation (inconvenient) that the file / fresh thought / idea / etc. is put on your hard drive (read human / primary brain).
    Believe me, you are going to use these files and you don't want to lose them anymore.
    Thought and intention can be transported instantly and have no barriers.
    Coincidence does not exist, telepathy does.
    There is no damnation either, but love does.
    Our earth exists because we want to.
    Our thought and will are very powerful, we just do so sadly little with it.
    Unfortunately, something really bad will have to happen to us before we can live in peace with fellow family.

  4. (thinking outside the box)
    I wonder is it possible to send an electricity cable (FIXED !!) from earth into space (+ 100 km high) and keep it in place / GPS forcibly by means of satellites or something like that with the aim of transporting the energy by means of a large solar panel area where the sun always shines


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