Placing Solar Panels in Space?


That might not be such a good idea
Why aren't we capturing the Suns energy?Rampal Singh / Unsplash

Shortly into the 21st Century, our battle with Climate Change became a losing one. The sad reality that the future generation dealing with mass animal extinctions, global loss of nature and unpredictable weather conditions is our own is just sinking in.

We find ourselves hurtling passed the point of no return, and are suspended in a period of time where our actions will only have a minor effect on what is to come.

Sadly, there is very little we can do, as we, as a species, rely on so much that comes as a detriment to our home planet. We have struggled to come up with a reliable source of energy and, therefore, continue to burn fossil fuels at an enormous rate.

But, what if we could mitigate these issues by using the largest source of energy production in our solar system, our own Sun?

Energy production of the Sun

As you can well imagine, the Sun produces energy at an alarming rate, but how does it compare to your average solar panel?

Every second, the Sun produces 38,460 septillion watts of energy. To put that into perspective, the average solar panel on Earth will produce 250–400 watts per hour, depending on the location of the Panel, relative to the Sun, during the day.

Effectively, you would need more solar panels (1.5x in fact!) than there are grains of sand on the Earth to create the same amount of energy, per hour, than the Sun does in one second…. That’s a lot of energy.

What we do need to remember is that you can’t capture all energy from the Sun, as doing so would require totally encasing it with solar panels…. That would be bad news for the Solar system.

How much energy does the earth use per day?

It’s very difficult to calculate just how much energy would be needed if the Earth’s population were to continue to function purely on solar power. However, according to, we currently use 580 million terajoules of energy per year.

If we were to stop the use of oil completely, we would need to factor in a large increase to the energy consumption needed by solar power, but it would still be comfortably less than the amount produced by the Sun every second.

How would we harness the energy?

Okay, so we’ve sent giant solar panels into space, somewhere in the orbit of Earth, collecting the obscene amounts of energy produced by the Sun. But, how would we get that energy back to Earth?

Short of having a link from the panels, back to gigantic power stations on Earth, we might have to consider a different route of relaying the power to all the homes around the globe. In order to harness the energy, we would need a way of collecting the power, without having a full-time connection. The answer might be in a shuttle service.

Imagine a long line of Trucks, all delivering fuel to your nearest Gas station. You won’t find many 18-wheelers that can handle a space shuttle launch to an orbiting solar panel, but the same kind of delivery service could be used.

As the energy is gathered by the solar panels, it could be stored in the same way as a domestic solar panel, within a battery, almost like a massive mobile charger. By storing the energy within these huge batteries, the solar panel can continuously draw power from solar energy, which can then be accessed when needed.

Could we see a future of space shuttles, used primarily to farm energy from huge batteries in the sky? Sadly, it’s very unlikely.

The costs of a Space shuttle delivery service

When we begin to look at the costs involved of a shuttle service to collect the energy, it quickly becomes clear why we haven’t decided to plant a massive solar panel in space.

According to NASA, the average space shuttle costs $10.6 billion to build, with each mission launch costing $450 million. Now, if it was a short trip into space, the costs may well reduce, however, even with the cost to build each Shuttle, we are looking at astronomical figures.

Those figures get even crazier when we consider the sheer number of shuttles required for this service.

As the world’s largest battery can store 400 megawatts per hour, it would take more than one trillion of these batteries in order to fully meet Earths need for solar power for the entire year.

When you consider that the world’s largest battery cost $2.6billion, it would take all the money in the world, one billion times over, to afford to run the service for the whole year.


So, in order to power the earth, purely on solar power, we’d need:

· More solar panels than there are grains of sand on the earth

· All the money in the world, one billion times over to afford the batteries

· A delivery service, consisting of around-the-clock space shuttles

In short, unless we find an alternate way of harnessing the energy of the Sun, it’s unlikely we will ever see a day where we’re self-sufficient on solar energy. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t reduce our fossil fuel usage and adopt a more prominent use of natural energy.

Sad, though, because a space shuttle delivery service would look pretty cool!!

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