China has announced plans to become the first nation to create a space-based solar energy farm that beams power to receiving stations on earth. Not only does the plan allow the space-based solar station to avoid cloud cover and other forms of inclement weather, allowing it to collect the sun’s ray 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, it also gathers sunlight that is six-times as intense on earth-based solar farms.
The plan, reported by China’s Science and Technology Daily, calls for the first iteration of the plan to be a mid-sized solar power station to be orbiting 22,000 miles above the earth by 2021 and generating and transmitting power between 2021 and 2025. The solar energy collected would be converted to electricity, then transmitted for use on earth via a laser beam or microwave. Assuming success, phase two will be a solar station capable of producing megawatts of power. That facility is scheduled for a 2030 construction date.
Chinese researchers are also thinking in terms of building a space factory where robots and 3D printers will be used to build the power station in space. The point is to circumvent the need to launch heavy components from earth.
Li Ming, vice president of the China Academy of Space Technology, was quoted in the report claiming that he expects China to become the first country to build a space solar power station capable of delivering electricity to Earth, where it will be added to the electric grid.
China is not alone in its ambitions. Last year, scientists from the California Institute of Technology said that they had created a prototype capable of harnessing and transmitting solar energy from space using lightweight tiles, according to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald. Scientists in Japan, India and European scientists are also working on ideas for solar-based power in space.
Mike Consol (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.