China has been looking for new technologies that will help them achieve the 2060 carbon neutral target. They announced last month that they are starting to build their small nuclear reactor that will generate a billion kilowatt per hour for a year.
Now, Daily Mail reported that the Chinese government plans to send a fleet of mile-long solar panels into space by 2035 that will beam energy back to Earth. This space-based solar power technology is also being studied by the U.S. Air Force and the UK government.
Reports suggest that China is aiming for their space-based solar power to be fully functional by 2050, which will send a similar amount of electricity as much as a nuclear power station.
China Joins Race to Space-Based Solar Power
Space-based solar power was once an overlooked idea in generating energy for Earth's use. However, the U.S. and the U.K. have started exploring the idea in recent years, and now China wants to explore it, too.
According to CNBC, China hopes to finish in next decade its high voltage power transmission and wireless energy tests that would be essential in the space-based solar power technology they are developing.
It is another part of the space race that countries are trying to win for its potential uses, such as in a new military build-out in space that shows increasing relevance in the world's powers. The U.S. already has its separate U.S. military for space known as the Space Force.
China has been planning to launch small and medium solar power projects in the stratosphere between 2021-2025, followed by a space-based solar power station that will generate at least a megawatt starting 2030. Then by 2050, they plan to launch a commercial-scale solar power plant in space.
How Will They Beam Energy Back to Earth?
According to Daily Mail, China has broken ground on the new Bishan space solar energy station at the city of Chongqing, where they will begin tests by the end of the year. Researchers will work on the best design to beam the power back to Earth, which includes using microwaves to reduce energy loss as it passes through the atmosphere.
At the Bishan facility, scientists will begin sending messages from balloons to a receiving station. They plan to send an airship to collect solar energy from the stratosphere and beam it back to the station 15 miles away. They are also planning to develop applications that will use energy beams to power long-distance drones.
The government also noted that the facility will have a buffer zone for experimental beam as the risk of a space solar power plant is not negligible due to potential misfires from the microwave beaming gun. However, they also assure that they will build an extremely sophisticated flight control system to maintain its aim and prevent misfires.
Benefits of Space-Based Solar Power
Space-based solar power (SBSP) is slowly becoming a reality, and perhaps it might not be too long for a complete transition to green energy sources. These are the benefits of SBSP, according to an article in Power Technology:
- Eliminates downtime due to bad weather and nighttime;
- Bypasses energy storage problem as energy beamed down from the Sun would allow for direct use; and
- Unfiltered light from space is stronger, which could generate 40 times more energy than Earth-based solar power.
Check out more news and information on Space-Based Solar Power in Science Times.