The big question remains: how to transmit that power down to the earth?
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It appears China is eager to have a clear lead in the space game. Following its recent space mission, which involved putting a rover on the far side of the moon, the East Asian nation is looking to build a power station in space by 2025. According to a recent report by Bloomberg, scientists have already started construction of an experimental base in the western city of Chongqing and will deploy in space a smaller power station between 2021 and 2025, a megawatt-level solar facility by 2030, and other larger generators much later. Some reports even suggest that China will build a gigawatt-level solar generator by 2050.
When deployed, China’s solar powered power farm is expected to orbit the earth at an altitude of 36,000 kilometres. According to a report by Engadget, the China Academy of Space Technology Corporation claims such a set-up could “reliably supply energy 99 per cent of the time, at six-times the intensity” of solar installations on the planet. How is the nation planning on transmitting the power generated in space down to the earth though? Its proposals so far suggest the use of a microwave or laser beam that can feed the power down to a ground receiving station.
Though the technology sounds cool, transmitting power wirelessly like that is still going to be a challenge. The biggest challenge here is the distance. Japan showcased one such technology back in 2015 and the California Institute of of Technology announced last year that it had created a prototype capable of capturing and transmitting solar energy from space using lightweight tiles.
According to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald, Pang Zhihao, a researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology believes that these futuristic space power generators could become “an inexhaustible source of clean energy for humans”. Researchers believe this could power future deep space exploration missions. Li Ming, the Vice President of the China Academy of Space Technology wants China to become the first country in the world to build a space-based solar farm with practical value.
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