China advances plans for space solar power plant

Beijing, June 7 (IANS) China has advanced its plans to launch a space solar power plant programme in 2028, two years ahead of the original schedule, according to a new paper.

The nation, earlier, aimed to put a 1 megawatt solar energy station in space by 2030.

According to the updated plan, published in the peer-reviewed journal Chinese Space Science and Technology, a satellite will be launched in 2028 to test wireless power transmission technology from space to the ground from an altitude of 400km, the South China Morning Post reported.

In the paper, the researchers said the satellite would convert solar energy to microwaves or lasers and direct the energy beams to various targets, including fixed locations on Earth and moving satellites.

The power generated will reach 10 kilowatts, just enough to meet the needs of a few households, the report said.

But the technology could be scaled up significantly and become “an effective contributor to reaching carbon peak and neutrality goals”, Professor Dong Shiwei with the National Key Laboratory of Science and Technology on Space Microwave under the China Academy of Space Technology in Xian said in the paper.

Dong and his colleagues said the plan was first drafted in 2014. Technological advances and potential military applications may have renewed government interest in the concept, the researcher noted.

Meanwhile, China is not alone planning for a solar plant in space.

In March this year, the UK government considered a 16 billion pound proposal to put a pilot solar power plant in space by 2035 with the help of various European defence contractors, including Airbus, the report said.

The US military has also reportedly tested related technology on the X-37B space plane while considering a $100 million experiment to power up a remote military outpost as early as 2025.

NASA had developed similar plans two decades ago, but shelved due to the complexity and cost of the infrastructure. However, the agency last month said that it was working with the US Air Force on feasibility studies, the report said.

–IANS

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