We have been harnessing energy from Sun for quite a while now. The growth in use of solar energy has been exponential. But, till date we could only harness the energy from Earth. Now, next goal is to capture the energy directly in space. China has proposed to do the same.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, scientists in Chongqing, China have plans to send a solar power station to orbit the earth at 36,000 kilometers (22,369 miles). The station would be able to take energy directly from the sun no matter the time of day, and without risk of seasonal or weather-related interference, the Sydney Morning Herald reported via Chinese news outlets. The team aims to launch the stations into orbit between 2021 and 2025, and to become the first country to successfully use solar power from space as energy on earth.
The project would have the potential to provide a never-ending stream of renewable energy to earth. As Pang Zhihao of the China Academy of Space Technology Corporation explained, this satellite would be able to provide solar energy to the earth 99 percent of the time, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. As Futurism explained, researchers hope to bring energy from outer space to a facility on Earth either via a laser or microwave.
For example, in 2008, John Mankins, a former NASA physicist, captured solar energy from a mountaintop in Maui (which is much closer to the sun than sea level is) and beamed it to the main island of Hawaii, 92 miles away, Wired reported at the time. Mankins was only able to send 20 watts of power, which is about enough to power a small lightbulb. However, Wired explained that a larger budget and therefore more solar panels would have allowed Mankins to beam more energy.
But the road to building a project of this size is not going to be an easy one! There are plenty of obstacles that China will have to work through.
- A huge budget is one of the keys to making a project of this nature work.
- Additionally, the scientists will have to build a huge facility on earth that can receive the energy captured in space.
- And, Elon Musk angrily pointed out during a 2012 talk, according to Popular Mechanics: “You’d have to convert photon to electron to photon back to electron. What’s the conversion rate? … Stab that bloody thing in the heart!”
But, to think on the bright side, if the launch goes well and the energy-transmitting beam works like it’s supposed to, the Chinese scientists have plans to test and launch bigger and more powerful facilities through 2050, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
And aside from sending clean energy to Earth, the power plant could also feasibly power missions deeper and farther into space, as long as the beam is precise enough to target any ships that are rocketing away to explore the cosmos.
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