ISRO Develops Technology to Mass Produce Solar Cells in India
Indian Space Research Organisation adds another feather to its cap. Strengthening its position in the astronomical world, ISRO develops a technology to produce mass solar cells in India. These new solar cells are supposed to power Indian satellites and keep it alive in space.
Until now, India was dependent on the USA for importing the technology to power 180 of its satellites launched from 1975.
In July 2018, ISRO announced that they have imported the technology to mass produce solar cells and soon going to start the project with the help of several Indian industries.
What is Space-based Solar Power?
Space-based solar power is a concept of collecting solar power in space. Space crafts orbiting in the solar system usually rely on photovoltaic solar cells to derive electricity.
The advantage of using a solar-powered spacecraft includes a higher collection rate for a longer period of time. Due to lack of diffusion, the energy received by a solar panel in space is of high intensity.
A considerable amount of solar energy projected on earth is lost (nearly 55% – 60%) due to phenomena like reflection and absorption. Since the spacecraft collects energy outside of earth’s atmosphere, these losses are avoided, giving us a higher energy output.
Space crafts are built in such a way that solar panels can be pivoted as the satellite orbits in space. Such mechanisms will make the solar panels face the sun, no matter how the spacecraft is pointed.
The International Space Station also uses solar arrays to power everything on the station. The 262,400 solar cells cover around 27,000 square feet (2,500 m2) of space. There are four sets of solar arrays that power the station and the fourth set of array was installed in March 2009. 84 to 120 kilowatts of electricity can be generated from these solar arrays.
Reasons for importing the technology
The Government was keen on pushing the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Currently, India is totally dependent on the U.S. imports for all the major components used in building a spacecraft. Heavy tariff duties and import restrictions even on bulk products is making our space mission economically costly. Due to some reasons, if it gets impossible to import solar components, it can bring our whole space program to a halt. So, in order to reduce our dependency on imports, ISRO has decided to develop this technology at home.
For producing a small remote sensing satellite, nearly 1500 to 2000 solar cells are needed. For producing a communication satellite it needs nearly 10,000 to 15,000 solar cells. We used nearly 20,000 solar cells, to escape the heaviest satellite India ever produced – GSAT-11. ISRO needs to pay around 15 crores as import duty for every 10,000 solar cells they buy.
Bharat Electronics has been given the contract of mass producing solar cells using this technology. The production will take place at an ISRO facility at Bangalore under the supervision of ISRO scientists.
Another step towards becoming a Solar Leader
India receives around 300 days of sunlight per year, making it an ideal place to harness solar energy. In the last couple of years, India has taken some major steps towards becoming a solar energy leader.
With the new investment in the solar sector, we were expecting some groundbreaking inventions and new technological advancements. ISRO’s step towards importing this technology could majorly boost our efforts to announce that we are soon becoming a perfect place for all kinds of solar efforts.
Unlike conventional solar cells, these solar cells are highly efficient, sophisticated and complex to make. Once the satellite is launched into space, solar cells absorb energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. This electricity is used to carry out all the major function of a satellite. Without proper functioning of solar panels, the satellite becomes powerless and turns into space debris.
Till now the U.S.A. being a top leader in Space and Technology was our only option to borrow this kind of efficiency. India importing this technology is a bright step in both space technology and solar sector.