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Space-based solar power plants can change the future of our planet: what's known about it

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Space-based solar power plants can change the future of our planet: what's known about it. Source: ESA

While space solar power plants may seem like the distant future, in reality, this is not entirely true. The idea of creating such stations has captured the imagination of tech billionaires, engineers, and scientists around the world so much that they are already working on it in earnest.

The details of the future energy breakthrough of mankind, as well as its prospects, are described by Interesting Engineering. The idea of space installations that would collect the Sun's energy and transmit it to Earth was described in 1941 by the famous science fiction writer and popularizer of science Isaac Asimov. Those were the distant times when humanity was not even able to send at least a satellite into the planet's orbit.

In 2023, there are quite serious talks about returning people to the Moon and establishing a permanent base there, flights to Mars, and new satellites appearing in the night sky by the dozens. It is not surprising that the construction of a space solar power plant now looks not only as something theoretically possible but also as something that is being developed in different parts of the world.

For example, one such project is being implemented in the United States, where the Air Force Research Laboratory, in cooperation with a private defense contractor, is creating a solar panel to collect energy and transmit it to Earth.

Separately, the California Institute of Technology is working on a similar project. They have developed Maple, a prototype about 30 centimeters in size with lightweight transmitters for transmitting energy back to Earth.

Already in early January 2023, Ali Hajimiri, co-director of the Space Solar Energy Project at the institute, launched Maple and was able to detect its signal during a test run. However, the amount of energy received was so meager that it could only light up a couple of LEDs. However, this is still a success that paves the way for more ambitious projects.

In particular, Solar Space from the UK is working on a two-kilometer-long solar power plant. It is planned to be launched into Earth's orbit and put into operation by 2035.

China is not lagging behind as it intends to produce up to two gigawatts of energy by 2050 (more than a nuclear power plant in the United States) using space solar power plants.

The introduction of such green energy will open the way for humanity to abandon fossil fuels more quickly, and thus lead to a reduction in carbon emissions.

But not everyone likes this idea. Ten years ago, Elon Musk criticized this idea because of its low conversion rate.

Mamatha Maheshwarappa from the British Space Agency also believes that the idea is too ambitious for modern humanity as it is necessary to build a structure in space that will be twice as large as the Burj Khalifa (the largest structure on Earth, 828 meters high).

Artificial intelligence could help develop the project now, but it has not yet developed enough to take on something so complex and serious.

In addition, there are fears that the energy beams that will be transmitted from space to earthly receivers could harm animals, birds, plants, and possibly even humans. Nevertheless, whether these fears have any solid basis is not yet known as no studies have been conducted with this technology.

Earlier, OBOZ.UA reported that scientists have learned to extract electricity from the air.

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