Space power

The challenges with delivering power lies in the dichotomy between, on the one hand: (a) toxic polluting fossil fuels and by-product generating nuclear power plants, and on the other (b) as yet inefficient renewable supplies. In the latter category, solar falls down because in many regions the solar strength at ground level is not great enough or consistent enough, and secondly because on Earth we have night-time. Not so in space. In one of the most exciting and futuristic proposals I’ve heard recently, China is planning to launch the world’s first solar power station in space – within 5 years. The proposal is made more futuristic by the fact that the station could be constructed using 3D printing, and works by sending power back to Earth using a microwave or laser beam. The advantage of solar panels in space is a permanent supply of energy, six times more effective than solar panels on the ground. Following an initial test, the ambition is to deliver a 1-megawatt power station by 2030; enough to power 1,000 homes. Whilst one of these isn’t going to solve the world’s energy needs, there is no shortage of space in space (hence the name) and with a larger number of more efficient stations comes the long term prospect of off-earthing our energy production in a manner that is sustainable in perpetuity.