Solar Farms in Space- the Future of Sustainable Energy

Solar Farms in Space- the Future of Sustainable Energy

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New research by the Universities of Surrey and Swansea states the possibility of producing low-cost, lightweight solar panels that can generate energy in space.

The study, the first study of its kind, followed a satellite for over six years and observed how the panels generated power and weathered solar radiation over 30,000 orbits. The findings (published in the journal Acta Astronautica) could pave the way for commercially viable solar farms in space.

Professor Craig Underwood, Emeritus Professor of Spacecraft Engineering at the Surrey Space Center, said- “We are very pleased that a mission designed to last one year is still working after six. These detailed data show the panels have resisted radiation and their thin-film structure has not deteriorated in the harsh thermal and vacuum conditions of space. This ultra-low mass solar cell technology could lead to large, low-cost solar power stations deployed in space, bringing clean energy back to Earth—and now we have the first evidence that the technology works reliably in orbit.”

According to Techxplore, researchers from the University of Swansea’s Center for Solar Energy Research developed new solar cells from cadmium telluride- the panels cover a larger area, are more lightweight, and provide far greater power than current technology, and are even relatively cheap to manufacture. Although the cells’ power output became less efficient over time, researchers believe their findings prove that solar power satellites work and could be commercially viable.

“The successful flight test of this novel thin film solar cell payload has leveraged funding opportunities to further develop this technology,” explained Dr. Dan Lamb from the University of Swansea. “Large area solar arrays for space applications are a rapidly expanding market and demonstrations such as this help to build on the UK’s world-class reputations for space technology,” he concluded.