Solar panels will soon be launched into space, not to run satellites or missions on other planets, but to test the effectiveness of transmitting energy to Earth. A prototype launch of this old dream is planned for 2023. No matter how cloudy the weather may be where you live, somewhere more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) away there is more sunlight than in any desert; The orbit of the lower earth. Over the decades, this observation has inspired the installation of solar cells in space, the conversion of sunlight into electricity, and its use on Earth.
The concept was proposed in the 1920s, and the first technical paper was published in 1968. At a minimum, there are no clouds to interfere with, and if the panels are moved enough, they can avoid the Earth’s shadow, so they can collect sunlight 24/7, eliminating the solar’s intermittency problem. Donald and Brigitte Brain, trustees of Caltech, believe so strongly that they have donated more than $ 100 million to Caltech to invent it, largely anonymously, now known as the Space-Based Solar Power Project (SSPP). Brains are not investing in the concept and have no commercial interest in any development from it.
Caltech Professor Ali Hajimiri, co-director of the SSPP, said in a statement, “It shows the level of generosity.” “They really want to change the world and really want to see it as an opportunity to make a lasting difference for the planet, while creating a wide range of new technologies in many areas, such as wireless power, communication, and sensing.” Brain’s contribution will literally pull the project out of the ground, but there are far bigger questions about whether the concept will ever work than using electric batteries or other storage power generated from ground-based solar.
Once power is generated it needs to be brought back to Earth, which SSPP plans to do with radiofrequency electrical power. Before it is ready to be used, however, it must be captured and brought back into the electricity, inevitably with some damage. Early prototypes will measure 1.8 meters by 1.8 meters (6 feet by 6 feet) and weigh about 4 kilograms (9 pounds), a tenth of the lightest solar cell ever built. The conversion of radio frequency waves for transfer is concentrated in the cell, avoiding the need to concentrate energy at a central point.