According to NBC News, China has announced plans to put a solar power station in orbit by 2050. This would make China the first nation to harness the power of the sun in space and bring it back to Earth. Because the sun always shines in space, space-based solar power would be distinctly reliable.
“You don’t have to deal with the day and night cycle, and you don’t have to deal with clouds or seasons, so you end up having eight to nine times more power available to you,” said Ali Hajimiri, a professor of electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology and director of the university’s Space Solar Power Project.
Developing the hardware for the solar power system will be expensive and difficult, but China is moving forward by building a test facility in the city of Chongqing.
The idea to use space-based solar power surfaced in the 1970s, but the technological demands were then thought to be too complex. New advances in wireless transmission and photovoltaic cells, which would be used to convert sunlight into electricity, could change that.
“We’re seeing a bit of a resurgence now, and it’s probably because the ability to make this happen is there, thanks to new technologies,” said John Mankins, a physicist who spearheaded NASA efforts in the field in the 1990s.
“If you look at the next 50 years, the demand for energy is stupendous,” he said. “If you can harvest sunlight up where the sun is always shining and deliver it with essentially no interruptions to Earth — and you can do all that at an affordable price — you win.”
Mankins thinks that a system such as this one could generate a flow of 2,000 gigawatts of power.
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