China works on space solar panels, plans to replace terrestrial solar panels

As great as ground-based solar panels are, occasional cloud cover means the system often doesn’t work at full efficiency. Also, areas that receive heavy rainfall throughout the year cannot rely on solar-generated electricity. To get around this, a team of Chinese scientists and engineers have been working on a way to build a solar power plant in space that will be able to transmit the stored energy to Earth. The team behind the project claims that if things work, such a facility could generate around six times more energy than if it were located on the ground.

While China has aimed to launch its first solar power transmission technology in 2030, those involved in the project said technological advances mean they will now be able to start testing their equipment in space in 2028. The idea is to convert energy solar energy into microwaves or lasers before being pointed at Earth-based stations, which will then convert it into power for the grid. The space stations will orbit at an altitude of about 250 miles or 400 kilometers above Earth. While the test facility will only generate about 10 kilowatts of power if it works effectively at first, it will expand exponentially in the future. The team working on these satellites is under no illusions about the challenges they will face if they are to succeed in transmitting high-power microwaves over great distances. These challenges include effective cooling of several critical components, assembling very large infrastructures in orbit with multiple launches, penetrating the atmosphere in any weather with high-frequency beams; and prevent damage from asteroids, space debris, or a deliberate attack. China aims to build a large-scale space power plant in four stages, with the necessary components to be carried into space in a series of rocket launches. Following the first launch six years from now, engineers want to put a more powerful version of the technology into orbit in 2030 in a bid to meet their goal of launching a 10-megawatt power plant capable of transmitting power to military and civilian users by 2035. If all goes according to plan, the station could boost power output to 2 gigawatts by 2050, roughly twice that of a nuclear power plant. China has been actively pursuing the idea of ​​space-based solar power plants for the past few years, while other countries including the US, Japan, the UK, Russia and India are also exploring the idea. The report notes that NASA said last month that it is exploring similar plans with the US Air Force, while the British government revealed earlier this year that it is discussing a $20 billion proposal with various contractors. European defense officials that would put a pilot solar power plant in space by 2035. Via: FirstPost


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