According to new research conducted by Britain’s Universities of Surrey and Swansea, it is possible to develop relatively cheap and lightweight solar panels that can generate power in space.
In the first study of its kind, published in the journal Acta Astronautica, British scientists tracked a specially designed satellite for six years. The satellite is equipped with all kinds of instruments to measure its performance in orbit.
The researchers studied the ability of solar panels to generate energy and their resistance to radiation during nearly thirty thousand revolutions around the Earth.
“This ultra-light solar cell technology could lead to the creation of large, cheap solar power plants in space, bringing clean energy back to Earth.”
They say the results could pave the way for commercially viable solar farms in space. The European Space Agency (ESA) is also studying this option, where the collected energy could be sent to stations on Earth via microwaves.
Clean energy from space
“We are very pleased that the mission – which was supposed to last one year – is still operational after six years. Detailed data shows that the panels have remained resistant to radiation and that the thin-film structure of the panels has not deteriorated under the harsh conditions of space. Craig UnderwoodProfessor of Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Surrey.
This ultra-light solar cell technology could lead to the creation of large, cheap solar power plants in space, bringing clean energy back to Earth. We now have the first evidence that this technology works reliably in orbit.
Although the cells’ energy production has become less efficient over time, the researchers believe their findings show that solar satellites work and can be commercially viable.
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