China has announced that it plans to build a solar power station that will orbit the Earth and send power back to Earth for use. China has become with this announcement the first country to plan a solar power station in space. The station would orbit the Earth at 36,000 km.
By putting the solar power station in space, it won’t have to contend with interference from the atmosphere or seasonal changes in the amount of sunlight its panels receive. Construction of an experimental space power station is underway in Chongqing according to Chinese newspapers.
Chinese scientists say that the space-based solar power station promises an “an inexhaustible source of clean energy for humans.” China claims that the space power station could supply energy 99% of the time at six-times the intensity of solar farms on Earth.
To start, Chinese scientists plan to build and launch small to medium solar power station between 2021 and 2025. If successful, the next step for China would be a Megawatt-level space solar power station set for construction in 2030.
The space-based solar power stations would capture energy from the sun via solar panels, convert that energy to a microwave or laser and beam it back to Earth. Receiving stations on the ground would convert the beam into electrical energy. One possible issue is the sheer weight of the solar station, it’s said to be around 1000 tons, much higher than the 400 ton ISS that was built in space.