Moving away from fossil fuels and towards green energy generation is becoming increasingly important, not just because fossil fuels will eventually run out, but the emissions they produce are choking the atmosphere. That’s why we are seeing huge solar farms being built, but China is considering a much more ambitious project. Chinese scientists want to construct a massive solar power station in space.
By massive I mean the largest man-made construction ever in space. The station when finished would see 6 square kilometers of solar panels orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 36,000km. It’s so large in fact, that from the Earth’s surface it would apparently look like a star in the sky.
There are a number of benefits to having such a power station operating in space. For one, it can collect energy all the time because there is no day-night cycle, and there’s also no weather, so no clouds to block the sun’s rays. It also doesn’t take up any valuable land back on Earth while holding the potential to be expanded or repeated at another location once proven to work.
Of course, there’s also a few major problems to overcome. Getting the energy back to Earth is apparently pretty simple and would use microwaves or lasers. However, such a massive construction would weigh over 10,000 tons. Our best rockets today can carry a 100 ton payload, so such a project would require a few breakthroughs on that front and much lighter solar panels/components, otherwise it will be a very long and expensive build. Maintenance would also be an expensive endeavor, especially if panels needed replacing.
Even if such a project does sound crazy, the research to make it happen should be encouraged. Having the Chinese government throw money at heavy-lift launch vehicles and super efficient and lightweight solar panels is going to aid many more projects than this, even if a solar power space station never gets off the ground.
The images and video included here are from the National Space Society and give you an idea of what a solar power station in space could look like.