China now looking to build its own giant solar power station in space

31 Mar 2015

Illustration of potential solar power station. Image via Wikimedia Commons

A team of scientists in China have begun the preliminary plans for a giant solar power station that would orbit the Earth 36,000km above beaming energy back to the planet through microwaves.

While not likely to come into fruition for decades, the team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and led by 93-year-old academic, Wang Xiji.

According to the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, the country’s plans to begin building its own space station in five years’ time will be one of the first steps in facilitating an enormous solar power plant orbiting the planet that would be able to achieve efficiency of 99pc due to the continuous solar energy it would receive outside of Earth’s atmosphere.

Speaking of the feasibility of such an enormous project, Wang said, “An economically viable space power station would be really huge, with the total area of the solar panels reaching 5 to 6 sq km. “Maybe people on Earth could see it in the sky at night, like a star.”

Still major hurdles to overcome

This wouldn’t be the first time that a giant solar power station in space would have been suggested as a possible future contributor to Earth’s energy with the US and Japan both in the past year confirming their interest in giant solar generators.

Wang and his team now see that the biggest challenges will be logistical with estimates suggesting that an entirely new and cheap form of transporting 10,000 tonnes-worth of power station to Earth would need to be developed.

“We also need to make very thin and light solar panels. The weight of the panel must be less than 200g per sq m,” Wang said.

“The development of wireless power transmission technology will be a great advance. After the technology is applied, power cables will not be needed anywhere in the world. Just imagine what a world it will be.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic