China has developed a unique plan to create an orbiting power station in space 36,000 kilometers above Earth which will take rays from the sun and turn these into electricity which can then be shot back to our planet. They are hoping that this will be accomplished by the year that they have set as their guideline, which is 2030.
According to the Daily Mail, once China’s power station in space is fully operational, it should be able to harness and provide uninterrupted energy to Earth. In fact, as Engadget has reported, the China Academy of Space Technology Corporation has said the power station should “reliably supply energy 99 percent of the time, at six-times the intensity” of solar installations that are here on Earth.
China will be testing the new technology that will be needed to build and operate the orbiting space station between 2021 and 2025 before they actually commit to and fund the one-megawatt solar facility, and during this time will be putting smaller stations into the Earth’s stratosphere to test these out first.
At the moment, there is already a testing facility that has been set up in Chongqing which was specifically designed to work on this very unique project. With China’s large space exploration budget of $8 billion which the government allocates towards new projects, they are very close to the U.S. in terms of space funding.
While testing out whether a solar power station in space is truly achievable, it is important to take into consideration the many challenges that will be encountered during this project. Probably the largest of these is that this station will be incredibly enormous and weigh around 1,000 tons, which means that launching all of the gear associated with the facility will be a very hefty endeavor.
This would take solar power to new heights. https://t.co/w6Y7roX7BY— Futurism (@futurism) February 15, 2019
To help them in the beginning, scientists are currently deciding whether 3D printing and robots would be helpful in their construction of the space facility, and are also discussing what ramifications, if any, the atmosphere’s microwave radiation may have on the power station.
However, as Japan has also been intrigued by the idea of a power station in space, over the past decade they have found that wireless transmission would be useful, and the California Institute of Technology officially announced in 2018 that they had discovered a way to transmit energy from the sun by using lightweight tiles. With so much work having already been conducted on this idea, China will have plenty of collaborators to discuss their findings with.
If all goes according to plan and China’s solar power station in space is successful and running by 2030, there are further plans to create an even larger gigawatt-level facility in space before 2050.