Are Solar Power Stations in Space Really Possible?

Have you ever thought about what solar power would be like if we didn’t have cloudy days? Or what might happen if it became possible to generate solar power through the nighttime?

Solar panels work by capturing particles of light from the sun’s rays to generate electrical currents that can be used immediately as electricity or stored in batteries (like Tesla Powerwall, now offered through GVEC Home) for later use. However, on cloudy or dark days, when the sun’s rays are slightly less powerful, solar energy capture is not quite as efficient. And of course, at night, it’s impossible for solar panels to gather sunlight. This is where the idea of space-based solar power comes into play.

Space-Based Solar Power Systems: Revolutionary Potential

Space-based solar power works by the same principles and using the same equipment that earthbound solar panel systems do: Photovoltaic cells absorb sunlight and convert it to electrical energy. At maximum efficiency, space-based solar power could yield two to three times the amount of electricity compared to land-based solar panels of the same size. This is largely because panels based in space—in contract to those on earth—don’t lose access to sunlight due to the sun’s rotation. As a result, solar energy can be harvested round-the-clock in space, making this a potentially transformative technology for human energy production and consumption.

Are Space-Based Solar Power Plants Possible?

Theoretically speaking, the answer is yes: Space-based solar power plants are possible. However, practically speaking, the answer is no. The most significant obstacle to widespread adoption of space-based solar generation is cost. With present technology, space-based solar power plants are too expensive to recoup the cost of building and deploying them on a large scale.

For example, the electricity generated by space-based solar panels is beamed down to earth in the form of microwaves or lasers. Specialized receiving equipment known as “rectennas” capture these beams, transforming them into electrical energy and adding them to the electric grid.

For beaming and rectenna technology to work, large numbers of satellite panels must be placed in orbit, allowing for optimum usability and efficiency. Launching satellites and the other heavy equipment required isn’t cheap. In fact, at roughly $10,000 a pound to launch materials into space, it seems unlikely that a functioning, largescale space-based solar power station can be realized any time in the near future.

Space-Based Solar Isn’t a Matter of ‘If’

The good news is that private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are currently working to reduce payload and launch costs. Current solar panel technology can also be affordably adapted, right now, for long-term use in space. When launch costs ultimately come down sufficiently, then, we’ll already have the necessary technology to deploy largescale space-based solar panel systems. It’s not really a matter of “if” space-based solar power stations might become a reality, but “when.” However, at this point, it’s anybody’s guess as to how long it might take.

Call GVEC Home Today

Fortunately, GVEC Home customers don’t need to go to outer space to experience the energy-savings possible with cutting-edge solar panel technology. We offer high-quality solar panel systems, including installation, right here in South Central Texas, and we back it all with a 10-year warranty on labor and 25 years on parts. Interested in making the leap to a more sustainable lifestyle, including the savings and greater control over home energy use that come with it? Call GVEC Home today at 855.898.8807, and our knowledgeable solar experts will help you get started.