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The United Kingdom is advancing on its space photovoltaic power plant project

The United Kingdom is advancing on its space photovoltaic power plant project

On the other side of the channel, the United Kingdom hopes to use its first orbital photovoltaic power plant by 2035. The beginning of a new cycle for renewable energy?

Last year, the English government announced with great fanfare a significant initiative; He co-founded the UK Space Energy Initiative with about fifty reputable companies, including Airbus, the University of Cambridge or satellite manufacturer SSTL, which aims to build a space solar farm. The project is now entering an acceleration phase; According to the latest news, the partners now plan to deploy the first source for the concept by 2035.

This concept, which dates back to the 1960s, initially connected a large photovoltaic power plant directly into orbit using special robots. Thus it will be freed from the barriers attached to the atmosphere; The terrain is simply enough to produce energy with exceptional efficiency compared to photovoltaic power plants.

The term is far from being exaggerated, according to researchers. In fact, this approach helps to collect the sun’s rays in their original form, before releasing a portion of their energy into the Earth’s atmosphere. Project reporters estimate that the same solar panel will store 13 times more energy in space than on Earth.

This can also be done consistently. This again has a significant advantage compared to current technology, which is subject to variations in weather. On Earth, to darken the net output of a panel, it is enough to cover a small part of the shadow cells of a cloud; (Actually) a problem that does not exist in space.

© Space Energy Initiative

The energy is sent back in the form of a microwave

It is necessary to send back all this energy to benefit from it. For all the reasons one can imagine, pulling a huge cable to the surface of our planet is obviously not an approach that can be imagined. So we had to find a way to do it remotely.

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To achieve this, researchers are betting on radio amplifiers that convert electrical energy into microwaves during transport. The stream is transmitted to a giant receiver with two antennas of 7 and 13 km in diameter. This installation will make it possible to convert the applied current in the existing electrical network into electricity once again.

According to those in charge of the project, this convoluted approach is actually more appropriate than the current philosophy of renewable energy. According to the researchers, these massive recipients will occupy only 40% of the space needed to establish a terrestrial solar farm with equal productivity.

Ultimately, this approach makes it possible to operate devices directly such as drones or remote satellites or even create relays in the form of airships stationed in the stratosphere. Moreover, according to project reporters, the risk of radiation emitted from space is simply too low. “I”, explains Martin Soldov, the project manager quoted

The technical basics are already good

The other advantage is that all the basic technologies are already fully matured. In any case, this is the verdict of an independent study commissioned by the British government last year. “The study concluded that the project was technically feasible and did not require revolutionary advances in our understanding of physics or new materials or components.”, Soltov explains.

But if the first evidence for the concept is not expected before 2035, it will have to put in many more elements. For example, even though technology is actually already available on paper, creating a team of robots to put the station together is nothing more than a children’s game. It is also necessary to manage the potential effects of beam interactions with other space vehicles.

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© Space Energy Initiative

Same care for the recipient. Engineers have already mastered the basics of the concept, but building a receiver that works at this level is a different ball game. They also need to solve the problem End of installation life. Ultimately, the English government hopes it can be recycled directly into orbit. But here again, the transition to the concrete phase will require many more years of work.

However, there seems to be a bright future for this project. This is because some observers believe that the renewable energies we know today are still in their infancy; Among them, some believe that the future of these technologies will largely be played out in space.

It is no coincidence that many countries, such as Japan, China, India or the United States, have incorporated this technology into their space route maps. Anyway, it’s very interesting to follow the progress of this project, as well as the race for space photovoltaics that is starting to take shape in the background. So one should only try to guess which country will produce the first significant portion of its energy in space. The challenge is open; See you in the next ten years.