solar satellite

Solar Satellites to Beam Power to Earth in 2023

The California Institute of Technology or Caltech in short has proposed an ambitious plan to supply our planet with cheap and clean power using 3 kilometer wide solar arrays that stream sun energy to the Earth’s surface. While many would expect colossal expenses for the project it actually got funding for over a decade in the total amount of 100 million US dollars. Even though the research on Caltech solar satellites has a single donor – Donald Bren.

The Space-based Solar Power Project run at Caltech paved its way in 2013. The chairman of Irvine Company operating in the real estate industry, Donald Bren, funded the research as soon as he heard about the idea in Popular Science. His identity as a sole donor of the program has been kept in secret until very recently when Caltech announced the official figure behind the project funding. What are the future plans within the project plan and when should we expect it to come alive? Read the article below. 

The origins of the project

Obviously, the very first idea of building solar satellites came from the current renewable energy constraints. Solar energy on the surface is omnipresent, and frequently utilized in various regions, but sadly it depends on the weather conditions, time and season. At the moment, we have no technology for the solar panels that will keep them fully operant at all times even if the conditions are ideal, thus transfer and storage of energy into the smart grid is a real problem. But, it applies to solar panels on earth – not in space. 

When we consider a solar panel which is in orbit the case is different. Solar satellites can receive full sunlight at any point in time and without further reductions in solar power. While on earth, light has to pass through the protective layers of atmosphere and magnetosphere thus reducing the energy, light travelling in space is far from such constraints. 

Currently, the most attention in various financial sectors is paid to on-earth solar energy innovative projects and companies, such as First Solar, Sun Power, Enphase Energy, etc. All of the companies that we mentioned appear on the list of the best solar energy stocks that have seen tremendous growth since 2019. However, none of those have come up with something as promising, ambitious and ultra-efficient as the Caltech project. 

The project designed at Caltech promises to solve intermittency and energy storage issues with the help of solar collector-transmitters in space. Obviously, the very first and the most important goal would be to collect enough energy to compensate for the costs of building the panel and the amount should be worth the effort. It means that energy should be delivered in a way that most of it does not escape in protecting layers and does not burn everything around it while achieving the target. 

The team at Caltech has put an enormous effort in providing solutions to above-mentioned problems and since its formation in 2013 has produced numerous studies and prototypes. They have built the prototype for the lightest solar collector-transmitter. The initial testing phase of the solar satellites is expected to start in the very beginning of 2023. 

Specifics of Solar Satellite Project

Quite recently, Caltech’s team working on the project has announced its ambitious vision to describe their satellite as much bigger than anything we’ve placed in space so far. The solar system will comprise multiple deplorable modules. They will be in close formation flight and will operate in full sync with each other. According to one of the research associates, the modules are tens of meters in size on the side and the system requires more modules to be added in future. 

The final structure of the solar satellite will be around 5-6 kilometers in length. However, the satellite will be placed relatively far from the earth, which means that we will not be able to see it as a giant hexagon in the sky. Well, how exactly do these satellites transmit the power? It would be sent to receivers installed on earth using directed and steerable microwave transmission. Furthermore, the team promises that the satellite will be able to deliver power to any location on earth at any given time.