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China advances the construction of the first solar power station in space by 2028

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Unlike the ground-based installations, orbiting solar power plants could deliver power during the day and night, at any time of the year and regardless of the weather.

China plans to begin construction of the first solar power plant in space by 2028, two years ahead of the original schedule, according to scientists involved in the project.

The first phase of the project aims to launch a test satellite orbiting at an altitude of about 400 km to test the wireless technology of transmission of energy from space to Earth, according to the updated plan, published last week in an article in the peer-reviewed journal Chinese Space Science and Technology.

According to the paper, quoted by the South China Morning Post, this satellite would convert solar energy into microwave or laser and would direct the energy beams at various targets, including fixed locations on Earth and moving satellites.

In the plan first drafted in 2014, the Asian giant set a goal of establishing a 1-megawatt solar power station in space by 2030. However, technological advances and possible military applications may have Renewed interest from Beijing in the project, said Professor Dong Shiwei of the National Key Science and Technology Laboratory in Space Microwave of the China Academy of Space Technology in Xian.

The energy generated by the test satellite would initially reach 10 kilowatts, barely enough to meet the needs of a a few households, but the technology could be scaled up significantly to become “an effective contributor to achieving peak carbon and neutrality targets,” according to Dong.

A Unlike terrestrial renewable energy sources, orbiting solar power plants could deliver energy during the day and night, at any time of the year and regardless of weather conditions.

However, directing high-power microwaves over significant distances would require an antenna enormous, potentially thousands of meters long, while solar winds, gravity and the movement of satellites could interfere with the transmission of energy, some challenges of engineering that have not yet been resolved.

China is not the only country that has raised this idea. The UK has considered installing a pilot solar power plant by 2035 with its Space Based Energ’ project. Likewise, NASA developed similar plans two decades ago, but they were shelved due to the complexity and cost of the infrastructure.

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