July 19, 2024
Europe is falling behind in the race to develop space-based solar power


When the EU approved the European Green Deal in 2020, the bloc unveiled a plan to lead the clean energy transition. Yet it has since faced growing competition from both China — which has quickly and quietly buried Europe’s solar panel industry and is now taking aim at its EV market — and the US, which under the Biden administration took an about-face on sustainability with the introduction of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022.

As the EU invests more into renewables, it will need to overcome hurdles around reliability, storage, transmission, and scalability to reach its ambitious 2030 renewable energy targets and Europe’s continuously growing demand for energy. Meanwhile, support for nuclear energy has created dividing lines amongst member states.

There’s no doubt it will take a mix of energy sources to build a strong, reliable, net zero machine to power the bloc’s future, but there is one contender that could help meet these challenges. Enter space-based solar power.

Studies have shown that by collecting solar energy via satellites in space, we could enjoy 24/7 access to energy transmitted wirelessly to anywhere across the globe. Unlike conventional solar panels, they don’t require large areas of land on Earth. This means they could be built large enough to produce more energy than nuclear power plants.

A model of how space-based solar power would work in practice.