(Yicai Global) Dec. 7 -- The government of Chongqing Bishan District, Chongqing University, China Academy of Space Technology-Xi'an Institute of Space Radio Technology and Xi'an Electronic Science and Technology University signed an agreement yesterday to break ground on the first test site of a space-based solar power plant.
The area covers about 33 acres, including about 17.5 acres of core test grounds, state Xinhua News Agency reported.
Construction will run from next year to 2020, during which time the parties will invest CNY200 million (USD29 million) to erect an experimental launch area, balloon platform and other facilities, and carry out tests of energy transfers with microwaves on a platform floating at a height of between 50 and 300 meters.
The parties will also build small and mid-sized stratospheric solar power stations and realize grid-connected electricity generation from 2021 to 2025. Work on a large-scale space-based solar power plant will start after 2025.
The concept of a space-based solar power plant is that of a power-generation system comprising solar power stations fixed in Earth's orbit, which send electricity to the planet below via wireless connections. Unlike ground facilities, space-based solar power stations are not subject to day and night, weather and other natural factors and thus feature a higher solar energy utilization rate.
China, the US, Japan and others have proposed solar power plants in space, with all in the basic research phase, said Bao Weimin, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and director of the Science and Technology Committee of Beijing-based China Aerospace Science and Technology.
A solar power plant perched in the ether needs to solve the key problems of how to transport power generation equipment into geosynchronous orbit with large carrier rockets, assemble it in space and generate electricity, and how to transfer electricity to the ground while ensuring the security of equipment operation and environment safety.
"These three issues are still under fundamental exploration," Bao said.
Editor: Ben Armour