China is a country that is betting heavily on renewable energy. According to the International Energy Agency (AEI), only China controls 50% of renewable energy production and the data indicates that in 2040 China will be the main producer. Precisely because of this strong commitment, it is not surprising that the country wants to create a large solar station, but not on our planet, but in space.
This has been reported by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) at the sixth China-Russia Engineering Forum, as reported by the Chinese news agency Xinhuan. The goal is to have it ready by 2035, in just over fifteen years. The Academy has given some data, such as it is estimated that it will weigh about 200 tons (a Boeing 747 weighs 183.5 tons) and that it will produce energy at the megawatt level.
According to Wang Li, a CAST researcher, "the space-based solar power station would capture the energy of the sun that never reaches the planet." Being in space, the plant would be able to capture the energy of the king star regardless of the surface weather conditions. This energy will be converted into microwaves or lasers that will be transmitted wirelessly to Earth to be consumed by the inhabitants.
It is not a precisely new plan, since in February this year some Chinese media reported that the construction of an experimental model in the city of Chongqing had begun. At that time there was talk that the station would orbit about 36,000 kilometers from the surface and that it could reliably supply energy 99% of the time at an intensity six times higher than that of terrestrial solar farms.
Chinese researchers hope that between 2021 and 2025 some small and medium-sized solar power stations can be launched to launch the one in question today, which will be bigger and more powerful. The project is already underway thanks to an investment of 200 million yuan, which in turn is about 25.6 million euros.
China is building a test base in Bishan, in the southwest of the country, where they will investigate how to transmit the accumulated energy on satellites wirelessly. This will occupy about 13.3 hectares and will be used to launch between four and six balloons capable of collecting sunlight and transforming it into micro-waves before sending it to the earth. The idea is to create a network of an altitude of about a thousand meters high, check if it works and, if so, throw more balloons into the stratosphere.
The United States already raised this possibility a few years ago, although Peter Glaser, an American aerospace scientist and engineer, put the idea on the table in the 1960s. His plan was similar: to capture energy in space and send it to the earth by microwave, although the conclusion was that it was too complex and expensive. Isaac Asimov was ahead of him, who in 1941 already considered the possibility of collecting solar energy in space.