Space-based solar power (SBSP) is an idea that has been alternatively promoted and ignored since its inception in 1968. An SBSP system is basically a satellite comprised of solar panels transmitting electric energy from outer space to Earth. It is a clean energy source with an enormous capacity to supply future energy needs. There are both positive and negative impacts of this technology weighing down their current viability. So let us dive and discover space-based solar power pros and cons along with its possible applications.

Space Based Solar Power Pros and Cons

Space-based solar power (SBSP) is the process of collecting solar energy in outer space and wirelessly transmitting it to the Earth. It uses solar panels installed on satellites with reflectors or inflatable mirrors that direct solar radiation on them. This power is then beamed toward Earth through a laser or microwave. Here it is received via a rectenna (a microwave antenna).

According to the National Space Society, SBSP has the potential to outperform all other renewable sources of energy combined. It can provide large quantities of energy with the least environmental impact.

To better understand the concept and its possibility to fulfill our energy requirements let us learn about the space based solar power advantages and disadvantages in detail.

Pros of Space Based Solar Power

1. Clean Source of Energy

JAN 23 Top 7 Space Based Solar Power Pros and Cons

Space solar power stands out from oil, gas, ethanol, and coal plants as it does not release any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In contrast to coal and nuclear plants, space solar power doesn’t require or rely on limited supplies of freshwater resources.

Space solar power doesn’t compete with other energy sources such as bioethanol or bio-diesel for farmland which is gradually becoming scarce. Additionally, there is no reliance on natural-gas-based fertilizers.

2. Easy Transportation

Using solar power from space can create a big enough demand for developing a cheap way to transport things to space. By doing so, the economic potential of the solar system’s resources will be unlocked.

3. Employment Opportunities

Using space solar power can create more jobs, and help solve energy security and climate change problems by taking advantage of the expertise in aerospace.

4. Reliable

JAN 23 Top 7 Space Based Solar Power Pros and Cons

The amount of space solar power available is tremendous, and it is accessible round the clock, something that cannot be achieved by on-land solar and wind power facilities. It operates effortlessly without being affected by total cloud coverage, daylight presence, or wind speed. Using it means reduced or no reliance on unpredictable or unfriendly countries for oil.

5. Safer

Space solar power is advantageous over nuclear power plants as it does not generate toxic waste that must be securely stored and monitored for hundreds of years. It is better for the environment than coal and nuclear fuels because it doesn’t need harmful mining.

6. Unlimited

Here comes the next benefit from the list of space based solar power pros and cons. It can make countries independent in terms of energy by reducing dependence on Earth-based energy sources and thus lowering competition for limited resources.

7. Widespread Reach

Utilizing space-based solar power allows for the possibility of exporting energy to any location across the globe. This energy can then be adapted to fulfill local requirements, like producing methanol in areas such as rural India lacking access to electricity. One of its potential applications is the desalination of seawater. The space-based solar plant of the same size provides 13 times more energy than a plant on the ground of similar size. With this we reach the end of space based solar power advantages, let us read about the disadvantages.

Also Read: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Solar Battery Storage

Cons of Space Based Solar Power

1. Construction

Top 7 Space Based Solar Power Pros and Cons

One major disadvantage of space-based solar power satellites is the complexity involved in constructing them, especially when it comes to satellites with large structures. To build large satellites, significant amounts of material are needed to be launched into space. Assembling, maintaining, and replacing these materials is also crucial over time. It is a costly and time-consuming periodic process and with such high costs, it seems impractical.

2. High Development Cost

Developing space solar power is an expensive process. It is essential to compare the expenses of developing space solar power with the costs of not pursuing it. Building these systems in space is costly because a large number of space shuttle launches are necessary to carry all required materials.

For the low cost: 4,000 metric tons (4M kg) x $9,000 launch cost per kg it is estimated at around 36 billion dollars. For 80,000 metric tons (80M kg) x $43,000 launch cost per kg, it is estimated at around 3.4 trillion dollars.

3. High Maintenance

Sending solar power from space to Earth is expensive, but it’s more difficult and costly to maintain the components in space. On Earth, degraded or malfunctioning solar panel components are replaced and reinstalled in a matter of hours or days at large. But this is not as easily done in space.

Also See: Understanding the Specifications of Solar Panels and How to Read Them

4. Potential Hazard

JAN 23 Potential Hazard

Solar panels in space face many dangers, including space debris, asteroids, dust, and strong (unfiltered) radiation from the sun. All of these pose potential harm to the integrity of the space-based solar system.

5. Short Lifespan

Solar panels in space have a shorter lifespan due to the harsh space environment when compared to solar panels on Earth. This again needs replacement which requires launching materials into space, leading to more expenses. This is one of the major drawbacks in the list of space based solar power pros and cons.

6. Speedy Degradation

The degradation of solar panels in space is significantly higher than the degradation of solar panels on Earth, around eight times higher.

7. Wastage

The transportation of energy to Earth may pose risks. Also, it includes significant loss of energy during the process of transportation.

Requirements for Space Solar Power

For space solar power to become a reality, it is essential to have the necessary technology and infrastructure in place.

1. Easy and Effective Power Transmission

It is vital to evaluate the transmission of power from satellites to the Earth’s surface, with minimal environmental impact.

2. Large Scale In-Orbit Construction and Operations

Solar power satellites require a large size to collect a significant amount of energy, much larger than the International Space Station (ISS), which is currently the largest spacecraft ever built. However, these satellites will be less complex than the ISS because they will be made up of many identical parts.

Also Read: US-Made Wind and Solar Components Now Cheaper than Imports

3. Low-Cost Environmentally Friendly Launch Vehicles

Launch vehicles that are designed for single-use have been costly, and when used frequently, they can contribute to pollution in the atmosphere. However, several private companies are currently working on developing cheaper and reusable launch vehicles as a solution to these issues.

Space Based Solar Power Applications

During continuous research for several years, researchers believe that SBSP can be put to various uses but majorly in electricity generation and space applications.

1. Major applications of SBSP are to power space infrastructure, satellites, rovers, and space vehicles.

2. Replace fossil fuel power plants as a backup source of energy during times when wind and solar generation is low.

3. Other potential applications include the provision of fresh water through the process of desalination of seawater.

4. Airbus wants to use solar power produced in space to help reduce aviation’s high carbon footprint. It won’t eliminate the use of fossil fuels in planes, but it could reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released by airplanes. It could possibly increase aircraft range in the future.

5. It can be utilized to produce liquid substances that have immense potential as industrial chemicals, fuels, building materials, or products, according to the director of the Liquid Sunlight Alliance at Caltech.

After learning about space based solar power pros and cons and its application let us find out what is the future of the SBSP system.

Also See: 5 Major Uses of Automatic Street Light

Future of Space Based Solar Power System

Solar power from space is a feasible option, and if expanded, it can offer us an abundant energy source. However, it’s also incredibly challenging. In order to reduce the high cost of sending solar panels to space, manufacturers need to significantly reduce their weight through major advancements. Improved thin-film solar panels might help.

Scientists and space researchers are working to generate a maintained and precise beam that can guarantee consistent power along with stabilizing satellites. Countries are already taking steps to make this technology operational as soon as possible.

1. China

  • Already launched a small solar satellite into the stratosphere in 2021 to harness the energy of space based solar power systems.
  • It plans to generate around 1-megawatt energy by 2030 and by 2050 develop a commercially viable space-based solar plant.

2. Japan

  • Researchers have had success in transmitting electric power wirelessly through microwaves, which is a great advancement.
  • SBSP systems are a part of their future space exploration visions.

3. United States

  • $100 million partnership between U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and Northrop Grumman to advance SBSP technology.
  • $17.5 million Space Solar Power Initiative to develop SBSP technology and generate power at a lower cost.
  • Researching reusable launch systems to reduce the assembly and launching cost of SBSP.
  • Using new technologies, the SPS-ALPHA MARK-II concept has advanced SBSP projects economically feasible.

Renewable energy sources have the potential to meet the world’s energy needs on Earth. With only 22,000 square miles of solar panels, equivalent to the area of Lake Michigan, the entire United States would have enough electricity, according to data from the US government.

The availability of fossil fuels is limited, and they are susceptible to depletion at some point in the near future. Research and investments are paving the way for a bright future for the SBSP system that would be a realistic and feasible option. Though there are a number of space-based solar power pros and cons, still neglecting a possible energy solution would not be a wise decision.

Recommended: How to Deal with Gexa Energy Power Outage


Olivia is committed to green energy and works to help ensure our planet's long-term habitability. She takes part in environmental conservation by recycling and avoiding single-use plastic.

Leave A Reply