The European Space Agency showcases solar energy in space

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The European Space Agency is exploring the technology needed to send solar energy back to Earth.  Image courtesy of the European Space Agency.

The European Space Agency is exploring the technology needed to send solar energy back to Earth. Image courtesy of the European Space Agency.

November. 22 (UPI) – The European Space Agency’s director general said on Tuesday that the European Space Agency can harness the power of the sun by deploying satellites that can send energy to Earth.

The European Space Agency said it is studying the technology needed to deploy a space-based solar power system through an initiative dubbed Solaris. A demonstration project in Germany used a microwave beam to transmit the energy needed to power a model city, and even cool liquids suitable for consumption.

Josef Ashbacher, director general of the European Space Agency, told the BBC that this emerging technology could go a long way towards reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“If you can do it from space, and I say if we can, because we’re not there yet, that would be very cool because it would solve a lot of problems,” he was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

For a utility-scale system, the European Space Agency said, the satellites would need to draw on the sun’s energy on a permanent basis and then convert that energy into microwaves that could be safely beamed into power stations on Earth’s surface.

To do this, the agency estimates that both the satellites and the collecting antennas on Earth would have to be huge—likely on the order of a mile—to capture the nuclear equivalent of solar energy found in space.

Trying to harness solar energy from space may be easier than doing it on Earth because satellites don’t have to worry about daylight hours and clouds aren’t a dampening factor. Meanwhile, innovations from private space companies are lowering the bar in terms of available technology, though plans are still on the drawing board for now.

“The idea of ​​space-based solar power is no longer science fiction,” Sanjay Vijendran, the scientist in charge of the European Space Agency’s Solaris programme, told the BBC. “The possibilities are there and now we need to really understand the technological trajectory before making a decision to go ahead and try to build something in space.”

The European Space Agency is already collaborating with the US space agency, NASA, on the Sentinel-6 programme, a satellite-based system that tracks how climate change is affecting the world’s oceans.

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