Will Space-Based Solar Power Be a Reality Soon?
According to current estimates, the worldwide energy consumption of the Earth is less than the amount of energy that the sun delivers to the Earth in an hour and a half. The sun is vast, near infinite source of energy that we cannot hope to maximize in the near future. Another issue is our atmosphere which reduces the amount of solar power we can generate at the bottom. However, we should be grateful for our atmosphere as we would literally be toast without it.
Enter space-based solar power
Space-based solar power systems, normally known as solar power satellites (SPSs), have been in our minds for a couple of decades now. Up in space, the same solar cell would see its energy production capability magnify and there would be no problems of night or cloudiness. This so-called stellar energy is infinite and once the technology has matured, it can easily meet all of our energy needs.
The cost of SPSs are way too high
Currently, it costs around $4,600 to launch a single kilogram into low orbit. Stellar power cannot hope to compete with energy sources unless this price drops drastically to not more than a couple hundred dollars per kilogram per launch. Cheap rockets are required to make SPSs feasible and the costs are the main reason why it has not become a reality. According to Paul Jaffe, an engineer at the US Naval Research Laboratory, as few as four solar arrays in space would be able to meet the entire power needs of New York City, so bringing down the costs associated with rocket launches is important.
Sending that solar power back to Earth
An issue that is bigger than reducing the cost of rocket launches is how we do get that solar power to the ground. Experts who are designing SPS systems agree that it will take at least a few decades to produce SPS's that are capable of feeding the grid back on Earth. The final answer is likely to involve some form of transfer via solar reflectors and electromagnetic waves. Essentially, on an SPS, we will need to create a middling layer that converts solar energy into a form that can be transferred easily to earth. Most current examples envision converting solar into radio frequencies and beaming them down to Earth which can be picked up by a rectenna and converted into electricity. Hopefully, the technology