Space-based Solar Power
A concept that was thought up by science-fiction writer Issaac Asimov in 1941 could now become a reality thanks to the UK Space Agency and UK government. Research has been launched into whether solar power in space could be beamed back to Earth as a sustainable energy source. Space-based solar power (SBSP) stations would capture the solar energy emitted by the sun that never makes it to Earth, and beam it back down using lasers to meet energy demands. It is thought that energy could be beamed anywhere on the planet, except for the poles, according to the UK Space Agency.
The research will be led by consulting firm Frazer-Nash, a company with expertise in the space, energy, and aerospace sectors, and will look at the viability of stations, the engineering involved, and whether it could deliver cheaper energy for consumers. They have also partnered with Oxford Economics, who have significant experience in the space sector, and who will provide additional strength and depth to the economic assessment element of this study.
The government says it is putting “new money and attention” into “radical ideas to reduce global warming.” Science minister Amanda Solloway said: "A space-based solar power system could provide energy to everyone, even in places that don't receive sunlight all-year round, like northern Europe and Russia. "Space solar stations may sound like a piece of science fiction, but they could generate an entirely new source of energy for the UK, while helping us slash our emissions and smash our climate change targets."
The proposed new space stations would add to the existing 3,386 satellites (figure as of 2020) and more the 23,000 items of 'space junk' - 8,000 metric tons - that are currently in orbit around the Earth, but may provide a valuable source of 'clean' energy to support our growing power demands. With human missions to Mars and space tourism also becoming a reality, it's clear that science fiction is becoming science fact!