BEIJING – Chinese scientists are studying the feasibility of creating a solar-power station in space to reduce pollution on Earth and energy shortages, the official China Daily reported on Wednesday.
Several researchers from Chongqing University, Xidian University and the China Academy of Space Technology are working on the design of a testing facility for the transmission of solar energy waves and their effect on living terrestrial organisms.
The testing facility, which will be located in Chongqing’s Bishan district, will use balloons tethered to the ground to help investigate the remote transmission of this kind of energy, said one of the project designers, Xie Gengxin.
“We plan to launch four to six tethered balloons from the testing base and connect them with each other to set up a network at an altitude of around 1,000 meters,” Xie said.
“These balloons will collect sunlight and convert solar energy to microwave before beaming it back to Earth. Receiving stations on the ground will convert such microwaves to electricity and distribute it to a grid,” he added.
But so far, Chinese engineers are only able to send these energy-carrying microwaves over a distance of just 100 meters (328 feet).
The main problems faced are related to the technical difficulties of directed transmission of high-capacity microwaves and the construction of a large power station in space.
Xie said several launches could be used to put parts in space before they are assembled into a single station.
If the tests are successful, the next step, he said, would be to send the balloons into the stratosphere to continue with new experiments at a greater distance.
He added that a Chinese solar space station could be located 36,000 kilometers (22,369 miles) from Earth and start generating energy by 2040.
Pang Zhihao, a retired China Academy of Space Technology researcher, said a solar station in space would be able to collect sunlight around the clock without being affected by weather and atmosphere, and could be used to power spacecraft within its range.
In recent years, China has become one of the leading powers in space technology and on Jan. 3 achieved an unprecedented milestone – a spacecraft landing on the far side of the Moon.