Will there soon be solar power plants in space?

Solar power plants in space will one day collect solar energy and send it back to Earth. But can that really work?

Photography: iStock

Photovoltaic cells would be put into orbit around Earth, the electricity they generate would be sent wirelessly to Earth via microwave antennas, where it would be converted back into electricity. This would require solar cells the size of hundreds of football pitches. The receiving station on the ground would also be kilometers in size.

The advantage would be a source of renewable energy with enormous potential that continuously supplies electricity. Solar energy could also be used more efficiently in space. However, there would also be enormous challenges – such as the huge, costly transport of materials into space, questionable economic viability and possible military use.

Nevertheless, space agencies are seriously examining solar power plants in space. However, it remains to be seen whether they remain science fiction or become reality.

About the person

© University of Bern, Photography: Adrian Moser

Christoph Mordasini

heads the office of Space Research & Planetary Sciences at the Physics Institute. He works primarily in planetary formation theory with a focus on large numerical models such as the “Bern Model”, one of the largest models, and is involved in ground-based and space-based missions.

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This article first appeared in uniFOKUS, the University of Bern print magazine. Four times a year, uniFOKUS focuses on one specialist area from different points of view. Current focus topic: Energy

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