China Targets Breakthrough in Space Solar Energy Transmission
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Nov 29, 2023
In an ambitious move to harness solar energy more efficiently, Chinese scientists and engineers are working on a pioneering project – a space-based solar power facility. This innovative endeavor, led by the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, aims to capture the sun’s energy in space and wirelessly beam it back to Earth, a feat not possible with terrestrial solar panels.
Senior researcher Hou Xinbin, a member of both the Committee of Space Solar Power of the Chinese Society of Astronautics and the Permanent Committee on Space Solar Power of the International Academy of Astronautics, outlined the project’s scope. The facility will collect solar energy, convert it into electromagnetic radiation like microwaves and laser beams, and transmit it to Earth. Ground stations will then convert these signals into electricity for distribution to power grids.
Hou, during an interview reported by China Daily at an international space industry forum in Beijing, revealed plans for a technology demonstration mission. The proposed mission involves launching a pair of satellites – a larger one to collect and convert solar energy and a smaller one to receive laser beams. Additionally, a ground station will be designated to receive microwaves, forming an in-orbit testing system for wireless power transfer.
The difficulty of beaming laser power to Earth, compared to the easier task between satellites or from a satellite to a celestial body, was highlighted by Hou. This technology has potential applications in lunar exploration, particularly in providing power to polar regions on the moon.
However, Hou also acknowledged the challenges ahead, including the development of high-performance, lightweight components and ensuring precise transmission of power beams to ground stations. A future goal involves transporting large components to orbit for assembling a substantial power station.
China’s urgent need for sustainable, affordable, and secure clean energy sources is driving this project. This initiative aligns with China’s goal to reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
The concept of orbital solar power plants, first proposed by Peter Glaser in 1968, has been a long-standing aspiration among spacefaring nations, including the United States and Japan. Recent developments, such as the US Naval Research Laboratory’s test in 2020 and the launch of the Space Solar Power Demonstrator by the California Institute of Technology in January 2023, indicate growing global progress in this field.
China’s foray into space-based solar power technology represents a significant step in the global pursuit of clean energy solutions. By leveraging its advanced space technology and commitment to renewable energy, China is positioned to make meaningful strides in overcoming the technological and financial barriers that have historically impeded the realization of space-based solar power projects.
Based on a Xinhua News Agency article