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Future of Space Technology
April 1, 2021

A Study on Space-based Solar Power System

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Abstract: 

This article presents spaced based solar power station, an emerging technology that is under a heavy research phase. Power sector one of the most legging sectors in Bangladesh. Research says the main raw product producing electricity is gas which abruptly decreasing day by day. On the other hand, Global warming, environmental pollution are increasing day by day. The present article deals with the alternative method of acquiring electricity as the environmental impact of electricity generation is significant because modern society uses large amounts of electrical power.  

Introduction:

Space-based Solar Power (SBSP) is the concept of collecting solar power in space using a Solar Power Satellite (SPS) for use on earth. It has been in research since the early 1970s. Contemporary Solar Power Technology is comprised of panels that reside on earth, and convert solar radiation into electricity by absorbing light in semiconducting silicon, separating opposite charge carriers, and extracting charge into a circuit such technology could theoretically be adapted for use in space where solar radiation is much more intense in the absence of atmospheric gas. Some projected benefits of such a system are a higher collection rate and a longer collection period due to the lack of diffusion atmosphere and nighttime in Space.  

Methodology:

Method-1: Solar power Satellite (SPS)

The conceptual SPS would be placed in geostationary orbit to ensure constant antenna geometry, and collect solar radiation through amplifying mirrors and currently-available solar cells, and subsequently, beam the stored energy back to earth through an electromagnetic beam. On earth, a ground segment comprised of a large photovoltaic array would capture the microwave beam, convert it into electricity, and distribute it to the local grid. 

      Method-2: Sun Tower 

              Alternative methods of capturing energy from solar rays in space include the “Sun Tower,” a tethered array of solar concentrators in low orbit channeling solar energy to an electromagnetic beam transmitter. Subsequently, the microwaves would be sent back to earth to be collected by a terrestrial passive array of photovoltaic cells. [1] 

Result: 

Predictions of a sample Sun Tower placed at 6,000 km at 30-degree inclination orbits would produce an average of 250 MW.[2]

Researchers are aspiring to design and develop an SPS farm that would generate 1GW of power and allow it to transfer back to the earth through microwaves or lasers. This will require an area of 4 sq. kilometer consisting of rows of solar panels. This space solar farm will be housed 36,000 km above the earth’s surface.[3]

Advantage:

Collecting surfaces could receive much more intense sunlight, owing to the lack of obstructions such as atmospheric gassesclouds, dust, and other weather events. Consequently, the intensity in orbit is approximately 144% of the maximum attainable intensity on Earth’s surface.[4]

There is no air in space, so collecting surfaces could receive much more intense sunlight

Concerning the profitability of solar satellites, researchers have estimated that the net present value of the future cash flows generated by a typical SPS is over $8.5Billion, controlling for many factors, including rising energy prices and variability of input costs. As such, solar power satellites are economically viable investments. [5]

Reduced plant and wildlife interference.[6]

Challenges:

  1.  The key barrier to the implementation of space-based solar is the literally sky-high cost of launch. Unfortunately, information on the size and configuration of payload space on common rockets is not publicly available, as it is competition-sensitive. However, we can assume that establishing any space-based solar platform would require numerous launches of moderate-sized rockets; these range from approximately $60 million per launch for a SpaceX Falcon 9 to $200 million for a United Launch Alliance Delta IV. Present electricity rates are on the order of $0.10 per kWh; the provider would have to sell between 0.6-2 gig watt-hours of energy just to recoup the price of launch. This is prohibitive.[7]

  2. The energy required for producing and putting solar panels into space versus the amount of energy generated. One of the solutions can be that we can utilize the concept of space elevators.

  Reference: 

[1] J. Mankins, “A Fresh Look at Space Solar Power: New Architectures, Concepts, and Technologies” Acta Astronautica 41, 347 (1997).

[2] J. C. Mankins, “A Technical Overview of the ‘Suntower’ Solar Power Satellite Concept,” Acta Astronautica 50, 369 (2002).

[3] Online portal

[4] [6]Wikipedia

[5]  Y. Gilboa and X. Guo, “Real Options Analysis of a Large-scale Space Solar Power Venture,” Michigan J. Business 4, No . 2, 121 (2011).

[7] Online Portal

 

Mohammad Ayub Adar
Department of Mechanical Engineering, CUET

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