China sets sights on space-based solar energy plant

China sets sights on space-based solar energy plant

China is reportedly working on a solar energy plant to be based in space, where it will one day be able to send power back to Earth and potentially light up entire cities.

Scientists are currently working on trying to overcome technical challenges that are holding back the problem. But it’s said that the project will be a ‘monumental leap’ in solving Earth’s addiction to non-clean power sources.

In space, the power station would be able to give an alternative source of generation that would combat current efforts around renewable energy.

Previously, scientists thought that space plants like this – known as SSPs – would be far too expensive. Despite this, Beijing is committing 2.5 trillion yuan ( $518 billion AUD) towards the generation of renewable energy, mostly through solar, wind and nuclear.

Known as China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the state-owned body responsible for the station hopes to have it commercially operating by 2050.

If it’s successful, energy could be beamed back to Earth through lasers and microwaves, but there are hazards involved. Researcher at China Academy of Space Technology – Pang Zhihao – says the potential risks to humans, animals and plants need to be observed first.

So what would an endless source of renewable-based energy mean? Basically, it would be a miracle in the climate change battle. The rising concern, however, is that Beijing could potentially ‘weaponise’ the instrument.

High ambitions fuel project

Even though China entered the Space Race later than others – sending its first satellite into orbit back in 1970 – it has immensely matured its research since. Recently, the continent hit milestones across manned spaceflight, and even landing a vehicle on the moon – a first for the country.

Billions of dollars have been invested in China’s space program, so it’s not unnatural to see them rise to the high ambitions of a solar energy plant there too. By the day, politicians are raising on the bar on ‘bigger and better’ goals for the field, as it sets its sights on sending a probe to Mars in 2020.

Currently, solar energy derived from space is the biggest potential for Earth and humans as a race. We could supply almost all of our electricity needs throughout the world – according to the US National Space Society and reported by Nine News.

As for how it works, several components would be responsible for converting electricity into rays that can be transmissioned across space. For this to be successful, China would need to send the components into space for them then to be assembled into the correct parts for the station. The farm would then be positioned into geostationary orbit and would transmit the energy through laser or microwaves back to Earth. The energy would then be reconverted into electricity and distributed by the existing grids.