UK wants to build an orbital power plant by 2050
UK government commissioned a study to assess the cost-effectiveness of a solar power plant in geostationary Earth orbit.
When solar panels are operated on the planet’s surface, their overall efficiency is significantly reduced due to a number of physical factors. They do not generate electricity at night, they do not work well in cloudy weather, without special mechanical systems, their power fluctuates depending on the angle of incidence of rays during the movement of the Sun during the day, some of which are absorbed by the atmosphere. All of these factors disappear when the panels are installed in space..
The UK space agency was interested in such an opportunity and instructed the consulting company Frazer-Nash to study the issue. The research team will study not only the feasibility of the project from the financial side, but also the specific technical features of construction, possible solutions to maximize efficiency, as well as the impact on the country’s energy sector.
All the necessary technologies to create a space solar power plant have existed since the 80s of the last century, but until now such projects have been postponed due to the complexity of implementation and high costs. That changed in early 2019 when China announced it was designing a space facility. for converting solar energy into electrical energy, with its subsequent transfer using a laser or microwaves to the Earth.
Frazer-Nash Consultancy will work with space organizations, energy companies and scientific institutions to determine the best way to transfer the energy produced in orbit to the surface. In case of a positive assessment, the government plans to implement the project until 2050.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: University of Oxford, Frazer-Nash Consultancy