China is developing a giant solar energy park in space. That should eventually deliver green energy to the earth. According to specialists, the Chinese will have to overcome some major technical challenges.
Solar energy from space is, according to the National Space Society (NSS) – an American non-profit that supports the development of space travel – the largest potential energy source available to humanity.
A solar energy park in space would be much more efficient than a similar park on earth. It would get solar energy 99 percent of the time and only not work if an eclipse occurs. The sun’s rays should not be weakened either because they do not have to pass through the earth’s atmosphere. That would make a solar park in the space up to 6 times more efficient.
How it works practically? All components should first of all be brought into space where they would be assembled. That could be a tough job, because the energy park should be huge: experts estimate that 2 square kilometers of solar panels are needed for 1 gigawatt of energy (with 1 gigawatt you can supply 1 million households with electricity).
The energy park would then have to be brought to earth in a geostationary or fixed orbit above a receiving station. From then on, energy could be transmitted, which on earth could then be converted into electricity, which could be distributed via the electricity grid.
De basistechnologie daarvoor bestaat al sinds de jaren 60, maar kampt nog met enkele uitdagingen. Zo moet er een lanceringssysteem ontwikkeld worden – om de onderdelen in de ruimte te brengen – dat niet duur én wel milieuvriendelijk is, moet er voldoende geld gevonden worden om de bouw en de operationele kosten van het energiepark te financieren en moet er een veilige manier gevonden worden om de energie naar de aarde te brengen.
Financieel zou China er alvast kunnen komen. Peking kondigde immers aan tegen 2020 367 miljard te willen investeren in het genereren van hernieuwbare energie.
Finding a safe way to send the energy to Earth is another big challenge. For example, an appeal could be made to microwaves or lasers. According to Pang Zhihao of the China Academy of Space Technology, however, the potential risks to humans, animals and plants must first be investigated, according to news channel CNN.
And while an infinite source of renewable energy is a holy grail for tackling climate change, some fear that the lasers of a solar park in the wrong hands could become deadly military weapons. “A laser could destroy a city in minutes or hours,” said Peter Schubert of the Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
He points out that a satellite in a geostationary orbit can see a third of the Earth’s surface, which is an important tactical advantage. “No great nation would allow another nation to build such a thing. By the way, any system can be hacked. Such lasers are huge risks. “
China is not yet impressed. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation – the main client of the Chinese space program – wants to have a fully-fledged solar park in space by 2050, ready for commercial use. The receiving station is to be built in Xian, an important city in the center of China, which is also best known for the terracotta army.
Source: Het Laatste Nieuws, 6 maart 2019