Orbital Solar Panels Could Provide The Planet With Endless Energy
Orbital Solar Panels could be the answer to the world’s greatest challenge so far; climate change and the need for efficiency to prevent it. Alternative power sources like conventional solar panels and wind turbines do exist and already do their work, but they also come with their own series of shortcomings.
This is why Caltech and Northrup Grumman have come together to form the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI).
“What we’re proposing, somewhat audaciously, is to develop the technology that would enable one to build the largest-ever-built space structures,” says Harry Atwater, a Caltech professor and member of SSPI.
The idea behind this technology is rather simple and yet ingenious, given, of course, that someone will decide to finance it. For the sake of efficiency and a streamlined deployment, the SSPI has come up with a way to make it as cost effective as possible to achieve this amazing undertaking.
The basic unit is, in fact, a multifunctional tile that is a lightweight photovoltaic segment no bigger than 4 by 4 inches (10×10 cm), one inch thick (3 cm) and weighs in at about 0.8 grams (0.003 oz.). Each individual segment can also be flattened when assembled for launch.
The orbital solar panels will have 400 of these basic tiles, and each satellite will be comprised about 900 orbital solar panels. Before launch, each satellite would be folded like a rug and once in orbit, it will open to a size roughly about that of a football field. There will be a total of 2,500 such satellites which will orbit in close formation and would have a total surface area of about 9 sq. kilometres, or about 3.5 sq. miles.
What’s really interesting about these orbital solar panels is that each will have the capability of transforming the energy into radio waves and then send it back to Earth. To receive it back home, one will only need an antenna and a receiving station. This new technology would do wonders for regions of the world where no current energy infrastructure has been put in place.
And so that you know that the scientists have thought about almost everything, they say that the materials from which the tiles are made out of are designed to withstand a long period of wear and tear. If the installation would be subject to a solar flare or to micrometeorites, which it will most likely be, the most damage that could happen is that just a few tiles would be affected.
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