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An Update to The Solar Energy Production: Space-Based Solar Power Systems - Aria İdil Kadirli

Solar power plants are considered to be a crucial component of the renewable energy sources crew. It can be argued that it is one of the most promoted ones out of the other renewable energy sources as it has minimal adverse effects on the environment compared to others. Yet, its most significant disadvantage is the fact that energy cannot be produced from the sun 7/24. Also, because of the resistant effect of the atmosphere, about 30% of the solar radiation does not make it to the ground.

As a consequence, the energy produced from the sun on the Earth is not fully efficient. This problem cannot be underestimated as day by day we are running out of energy sources, and paradoxically the demand for energy is getting higher. Fortunately, a solution for this problem has been found and is planned to be constructed in the future to be based in the space named as space-based solar power (SBSP).

According to the European Space Agency, the ideas of the SBSP have started in the 1970s by the Czech-US engineer Dr. Peter Glaser, and throughout the years, it has caught a great deal of attention from the US, Japan, China, and Europe.

To roughly talk about how it works, according to the US Department of Energy, initially, satellites are sent to space along with reflectors and with a microwave or laser power transmitter. Then, the reflectors direct solar radiation onto the panels. Later, panels convert the radiations into a microwave or a laser, and finally, energy is sent to the Earth-directed to an electric grid.

The good news is that in early 2018, scientists from the California Institute of Technology reported that they created a prototype of utilizing and carrying solar energy from the space. They had succeeded in carrying out this project. This step oils the wheels for future big-budget projects concerning SBSP.

SBSP, when constructed, will bring political and environmental changes. It is safe to argue that today some states which own energy resources within their boundaries use this chance to consolidate their power in their relations with other countries. States that purchase energy from the energy supplier states nowadays prefer producing their energy, and hence SBSP might be a good chance for them to eliminate their energy dependence on other countries. An example of this would be the EU and Russia case. EU wants to cut its oil dependence on Russia, and hence SBSP would be a utilizing tool for the EU.

Additionally, according to Oryza Astari (2019), as mentioned in her article ‘’Shoot for the Sun: Why the US should prioritize space-based solar power’’, deployment of the Space-Based Solar Power System will consolidate the superpower of the USA in the international system. It is essential to mention that China and Japan are planning to launch its solar space stations within 25 to 30 years. States owning SBSP’s can change the energy consumption patterns in the future.

To talk about the environment, SBSP might be helpful as a significant step in this subject as it could help to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions by preserving the Earth from heavy industry.

Unsurprisingly, experts are divided into two concerning the SBSP; most argue that we do have the basic science and the basic design to construct the power systems in the space yet, opponents such as Elon Musk from Tesla argue that upfront costs are too high. The costs cannot be underestimated as solely one equipment weighs around 10,000 tonnes, and getting it to the orbit is undoubtedly quite expensive.


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