Article image

Space-based solar farms are now financially viable

The ever-growing pursuit of sustainable energy solutions has been propelled into a new frontier – space. Tim Peake, a prominent figure in the realm of space exploration and the first British astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA) to board the International Space Station, believes that space-based solar farms may soon become a reality.

Falling costs, rising possibilities

One of the primary factors making space solar farms increasingly viable is the decreasing cost of launching heavy payloads into space. For decades, the prohibitive costs of space missions were a significant roadblock for such innovative ideas. However, recent advancements, particularly in reusable rocket technology, have substantially lowered these costs.

Peake provides insight into the monetary figures, highlighting that the costs have shifted from a staggering $2,700 per kilo to a far more palatable $1,500 with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. The emergence of the “Starship” further revolutionizes this, bringing the cost down to an astonishing $300 per kilo.

The Solaris initiative

The ESA hasn’t been a mere spectator in these developments. Under the Solaris program, the agency is fervently working on the conceptualization and implementation of space-based solar power plants.

Their goal is to present a business case to the European Union by 2025. This strategy, backed by both Peake’s insights and the ESA’s dedication, paints an optimistic picture for space solar farms.

Funding and development

Recognizing the potential of this venture, the British Government made a significant investment earlier this year. They pledged £4.3 million in funding for tech companies and UK universities. Their goal is to spearhead the development of space-based solar technology.

How do solar farms in space work?

For many, the idea of beaming energy from space may seem outlandish. Not so, says Peake. Solar panels, once sent into space under the Solaris initiative, can be interlinked to form expansive solar farms.

These farms can harness the sun’s energy unceasingly, without the limitations of night or adverse weather conditions that terrestrial solar farms face.

The energy collected would then be transmitted to Earth using microwave technology. Peake envisions this as “clean, limitless energy” – a potential game-changer in the global quest for renewable energy solutions.

Solar farms in space — a beacon of hope

Space-based solar farms offer an opportunity to harness renewable energy in a manner previously considered the domain of science fiction. As technology continues to advance and the barriers of cost and feasibility diminish, the dream of tapping into the endless energy of space moves ever closer to reality.

While challenges remain, with pioneers like Tim Peake championing the cause and significant investments being made, the prospect of clean, infinite energy from space is no longer just a vision but an attainable future.

More about orbiting solar farms

Space-based solar farms are transforming the way we think about renewable energy. Instead of installing solar panels on Earth, engineers and scientists are launching them into space.

Why? As discussed previously in this article, in space, solar panels can capture the sun’s energy around the clock. This power source would be free from the limitations of night, atmospheric interference, or weather conditions.

How do they work?

At their core, space-based solar farms operate similarly to their ground counterparts. However, the environment they work in offers distinct advantages. Once engineers place these solar panels in orbit, the panels continuously harvest sunlight. They then convert this sunlight into electricity.

But how do we get this energy back to Earth? Engineers have found a solution. They convert the electrical energy into microwaves, beam these microwaves towards Earth, and then ground-based stations collect and convert them back into electricity. This transmission process, while complex, has the potential to deliver consistent and uninterrupted power to our planet.

Why are they advantageous?

Continuous energy collection

Unlike terrestrial solar panels that rely on daily sunlight and favorable weather conditions, space-based solar farms have an uninterrupted view of the sun. This means they can produce energy 24/7.

Increased efficiency

Without the Earth’s atmosphere to scatter and absorb sunlight, space solar panels can capture more energy, making them significantly more efficient than their terrestrial counterparts.

Limitless potential

Space offers an almost infinite area to install solar farms, unhindered by the land constraints we face on Earth. This vast expanse can potentially host solar farms that can power entire countries.

Challenges and Considerations

While the idea sounds promising, we’re also tackling numerous challenges. The costs associated with launching and maintaining these solar farms in space are significant, even with the advent of more affordable space transport options. Additionally, engineers must ensure that the transmission of energy from space to Earth is both safe and efficient.

Moving forward

With advancements in space technology, the decreasing costs of launches, and increasing global demand for renewable energy, space-based solar farms are gaining traction. Scientists and engineers, like Tim Peake mentioned earlier in this article, are collaborating, researching, and innovating to turn this ambitious concept into a reality. As we look to the future, the sky is not the limit — it’s just the beginning.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day