In Science and Space: LONGi Green Energy, the world’s largest solar company, launches solar panels into space to test their ability to operate normally in orbit and send energy back to Earth.
So what’s the point of putting solar panels in space? Unlimited solar radiation in orbit. Wu Zhijian, president of the China Space Foundation, a government-backed agency of the China National Space Administration, said:
The newly announced project by the Chinese photovoltaic giant based in Xi’an is called LONGi Green Energy Future Energy Space Laboratory. Its purpose is to “promote the integrated development of aerospace technology and new energy.” The company also tests products in similar environments on Earth to assess suitability for space.
The first applications of photovoltaics were found in the aerospace industry. Solar power and aerospace development are closely related. Solar power has always been the main producer of space energy. We are very happy to see LONGi take the first step in aerospace and connect the fields of space power plants, aerospace commercialization and so on in the future.
I write about solar several times a week, but solar from space? It’s time to talk to the space experts. When I asked the writers at Electrek’s sister site, Space Explored, what they thought of the initiative, they were less than enthusiastic.
Seth Krkowski said: We already have the problem of too much space debris and large constellations in orbit. There are no regulations to guarantee satellite operators work together to avoid each other, and adding more won’t make the situation any better.
It’s a great idea in theory, but I think the additional problems it introduces outweigh the benefits it brings. However, the technology LONGi can develop from these tests could aid future space exploration on the Moon and Mars when orbital congestion is eased. Additionally, Derek Wise added:
Continued research and improvement of solar panel technology for space travel will continue to improve the same technology here on Earth and in other space applications. But the idea of a “space-based power plant” is very optimistic. I can’t see it happening. If LONGi gets twice as much power, or even three times as much power, due to the lack of clouds and darkness, I don’t think there’s any way that a single launch can offset tens of millions of dollars. The [SpaceX] Falcon 9 can (very roughly) launch 20,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit, but less in sun-synchronous orbit. Solar panels made for space may be lighter, but they degrade faster than their terrestrial counterparts. And if the company were to pay him $35 million to $45 million per £20,000 solar panel, it would be able to buy a ton of additional solar panels and batteries on Earth.