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Can We Build a Solar Power Station in Space?

May 18, 2022 - Jenny Tsui

Solar energy is the most abundant source of energy on the planet. The sun has produced energy for billions of years and will continue to burn for billions more. This source of renewable energy is good for the planet, too. Unlike fossil fuels, generating electricity from sunlight does not pollute the environment. As we try to curb global warming, this may be one of the best solutions we have and scientists are working to find a way to collect enough energy to power the whole world. One of their ideas? Building a solar power station in space. 

How Does A Solar Power Station Work in Space?

A solar power station in space works the same way as one on Earth does, except that it is floating in space! The solar power station collects energy from the sun using large sheets of metal known as solar panels. These panels send the solar energy back to Earth, where it can be used as electricity. 

Why Build A Solar Power Station in Space?

Today, there are already many solar power stations on earth. They can be found all over the world, in countries like India, China, and the US. A big plant with millions of solar panels can generate electricity for as many as 200,000 homes! However, solar plants on Earth can only produce energy during the day, when the sun is shining. They are also affected by factors like the weather. One in space will not have these problems, as it would face the sun all day. This means that we can produce much more energy from a solar power plants in space than on Earth. 

What Are the Challenges to Building A Solar Power Station in Space?

Currently, scientists are still thinking about the best way for such a big infrastructure to work. One of the biggest issues is how the plant would send the energy back to Earth, given that it so far away. The risk is that only a small amount of solar energy may reach the Earth in the end.

There are definitely some challenges to building a solar power station in space, given that a single plant may be as big as 1,400 football stadiums! A huge number of heavy panels will need to be taken into space using rockets. This will require countless rocket launches from Earth, which are not only expensive, but also produce greenhouse gases

Even if we can successfully build a solar power plant in space, there may be challenges to maintaining it, too. In space, the solar panels can be damaged by space debris, or any floating objects in space. They may also degrade faster as they are continuously exposed to more powerful sunlight. This means that a panel in space may have a shorter lifespan than one on Earth.

When will a solar power station be in space?

Countries like China, the US, and Japan are already working on improving current technology and building small solar power stations in space. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, they hope to make this a reality in the coming decades! 

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