• Question: Is it possible to harvest solar energy near the sun and how efficient will it be?

    Asked by Piti Lwin to Stewart, Laura on 12 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Stewart Martin-Haugh

      Stewart Martin-Haugh answered on 12 Nov 2018:

      Good question! This is definitely possible – satellites are nearer to the Sun than we are, and they all have solar panels to generate their power.

      Solar power on Earth is not as efficient as in space because

      1)the atmosphere stops a lot of the Sun’s rays (this is good for us, otherwise we’d get a lot more sunburn)

      2)clouds and nighttime limit when solar panels can work efficiently

      However, there are big problems with getting enough solar panels into space and getting enough energy back. So far no one has solved these. It seems like all other forms of renewable energy will stay much, much cheaper for the next few years.

      In fact over the last few years, solar panels on Earth have got much cheaper:

      Solar power doesn’t make up much of the energy supply of the UK at the moment, but that is likely to change over time, particularly if solar panels keep getting cheaper!