Power Generation in Space in Focus at Royal Aeronautical Society Conference5th May 2022
The UK’s moves to wean itself off of fossil fuels increasingly look like they will include a power generating station in orbit. The Royal Aeronautical Society focused on the topic, among others, at RAeS Conference – Towards a Space Enabled Net Zero Earth on 26th-27th April. Speakers from industry and government discussed the effort to build a station for converting solar energy into electricity and beaming it to a receiving station on Earth.
The 27th April Session, led by Space Energy Initiative Co-Chair Martin Soltau, who led the Frazer Nash Consultancy research for the Space Based Solar Power report published in 2021.
Taking to Twitter, RAeS’ Tim Robinson posted that
“Other countries” would include EU member states, as the Frazer-Nash Consultancy was written for it. However, China has already conducted power transmission tests at the kilometer scale. While the participants were generally positive, current events such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine were reflected in questions regarding the physical security of the stations. The answer, Robinson tweeted, was that the station would be in high earth orbit and thus out of range for most weapons. Also, the design of the system would make it hard to destroy.
SBSP at a glance
The space-based solar power station is essentially a satellite consisting of solar panels arrayed kilometers on a side producing gigawatts of energy. The satellite, kept in a geostationary orbit, would harness solar energy that is 11 times more intense than on the surface of the Earth. Unlike terrestrial systems, a solar array in space should be able to maintain almost constant power generation day in, day out, year-round.
According to the study, such a power station with solar panel arrays of approximately 1.7km per side should be able to generate 3GW, with 2GW of that reaching the terrestrial power grid.
The study also sees the construction of a 40MW proof of concept station in Low Earth Orbit in 2031 as well as a fully operational station by 2040. Current cost estimates are at around £16 billion.