Is Space-Based Solar Power the Answer to Clean Energy 24/7, 365 Days of the Year?

How do we create a sustainable future for the world? Develop a limitless, low carbon source – from space. We are Space Solar, and this is what you need to know about space-based solar power.

Extreme temperatures, land scarcity, limited rare earth materials, prohibitive costs, supply chain vulnerabilities, declining public health, deforestation… Just some of the reasons we need to move away from our over-reliance on fossil fuels. We’ve seen the level of carbon dioxide rise by 40% during the 20th and 21st century, as a direct result of human activity. It’s clear that we must do everything in our power to help decarbonise world economies – sustainably and affordably. 

Enter: the space-based solar power (SBSP) concept, a new solar energy source from space. 

Here at Space Solar, we’re working to make this concept a reality in the UK with CASSIOPeiA – the leading baseload Solar Power Satellite design. Our Co-CEO and Executive Director, Sam Adlen, puts it simply;

The SBSP system comprises a 1.7km diameter satellite in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) – where the sun is visible over 99% of the time – and a 5km ground station here on Earth. The satellite features large lightweight solar panels, with a system of mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto the panels. The electricity generated by the solar panels is converted into high frequency radio waves (microwaves) and beamed to a rectifying antenna (a ‘rectenna’) on the ground, which converts the electromagnetic waves into electricity.”

It’s a revolutionary way to reach NetZero and create a safer, more secure world where everyone has access to clean energy.

Just a single satellite could potentially deliver as much as 2GW of carbon-free power, enough to supply a city of 2 million people, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

In fact, just three satellites could provide global coverage, and satellite constellations could be scaled up to deliver power to the majority of the world, including developing and island nations. 

The benefits of SBSP are endless, representing a consistent way to deliver large-scale baseload (continuous) and dispatchable (the amount of power delivered can be tuned) energy continuously day and night, throughout the year:

  • Efficient – turning sunlight in space into electricity on Earth is significantly more efficient than its terrestrial counterparts. As Harry Atwater, Caltech professor and expert in photovoltaics says; “the amount of sunlight in space in a 24-hour period is a factor of eight higher than on Earth.” This means SBSP would have a considerably higher level of efficiency, at 20%, than terrestrial solar (5% maximum).
  • Resource sparing – unlike terrestrial renewables there is no downtime, which mitigates the need for extra storage to supply power when it can’t be generated. This reduces reliance on rare earth minerals which have a growing carbon impact when they are mined. 
  • Limits land usage – SBSP takes up 40% of the land usage of terrestrial solar and just 10% of off-shore wind, easing the demand on land, as it becomes more and more scarce. 
  • Flexible – we can instantly switch the beam to any point within a ⅓ of the earth’s surface, allowing us to optimise energy systems internationally, and in turn, re-imagine the way energy grids work. 
  • Agile tech – the science is well understood, and can be developed and commercialised in the next decade or so, offering an affordable and sustainable solution to achieving NetZero by 2050. 
  • Abundant – we’re on a mission to make our SBSP system operational by 2035, with the potential to meet 20% of global electricity demand in 2050.
  • Economical – according to a UK government-led study into the technical feasibility, cost and economics of SBSP, it has been prohibitively costly – until now – thanks to the huge reduction we are seeing in the cost of launch. The study found that the total cost to develop and deploy a SBSP station would reach $12.5 billion compared to the £43 billion estimated for Hinkley Point, the UK’s newest nuclear power station. 
  • Market potential – our SBSP system would give the UK access to multi-trillion dollar global markets, through global clean energy dispatching & technology licensing.

The global effort to decarbonise economies and achieve NetZero is critical to our survival. But as evidenced, it’s proving difficult to achieve with current technologies and terrestrial offerings – which rely on inconsistent energy sources, take up a considerable amount of land resources and require heavy financial input. At Space Solar, we believe that SBSP will take us into a new era of clean, resilient, secure, and affordable energy for all.