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Space solar panels: the new frontier of clean energy ?

© Image generated by DALL-E AI for Presse-Citron

Virtus Solis was founded by a former SpaceX engineer, John Bucknell. Their objective is to exploit solar energy in a more optimized way by bringing the voltaic panels closer to their source: the Sun. How to ? Build an Orbiting Solar Farm. A slightly crazy project, unveiled in April during the International Space Energy Conference in London. The main idea is therefore to remove the limiting factor in the exploitation of terrestrial solar energy: its intermittent nature.

Solar energy from space, 24/7

Virtus Solis wants to exploit the highly inclined Molniya orbit so that one or more satellite constellations are permanently in view of ground stations, thus ensuring a constant power supply. This would therefore involve deploying a vast solar array using SpaceX's Starship spacecraft.

Once all the satellites are in orbit, the start-up plans to activate autonomous robots which will be responsible for assembling the entire system. When it is built, it will be able to transmit its electricity to the Earth to terrestrial stations equipped with rectennas (Rectifying Antenna), devices capable of converting microwaves into direct voltage, and therefore into electric current. usable.

According to the founders of Virtus Solis, this technology could deliver solar energy instantly to 50% of the earth's surface at any time. Each satellite making up the constellation is rather compact (around 1.65 m in diameter) and will have a production capacity of 1 kilowatt.

A promising alternative to terrestrial solar farms& nbsp;?

If terrestrial solar farms have proven their effectiveness, they suffer from a major handicap: their intermittency. Indeed, their energy production is dependent on the path of the sun and weather conditions, thus requiring the addition of expensive storage solutions in order to allow permanent electricity production. This is where the idea of ​​Virtus Solis is interesting.

Nevertheless, the realization of this project is ;#8217;arduous and particularly long announcement. The start-up only plans to launch its first test satellite in 2027. This launch will mark the beginning of years, even decades of research and optimization before this famous solar farm is deployed and operational.

In short, we are not yet close to seeing the Virtus Solis solar farm floating. Although the project has real potential, the question of costs and profitability also arises. Another, that of space pollution, can also be raised. As the surroundings of our planet are already overloaded with space debris, deploying such an infrastructure could contribute to the already sufficiently worrying clutter of our near space.

  • Virtus Solis, a start-up founded by John Bucknell, a former SpaceX engineer, plans to build a solar farm in orbit.
  • This constellation of solar panels would be put in orbit by SpaceX's Starship and assembled by autonomous robots.
  • The first test is planned for 2027, but it will be a very long time before we see a such infrastructure work.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116