Solar power from space could be a solution to global energy problems. However, just like nuclear fusion, there is still a lot of uncertainty about development costs and timelines. Yet scientists from China’s Xidian University have completed testing and inspection on a ground-based array intended to collect space solar power, bringing the world closer to operational space solar power.
According to a press release from the university, they successfully tested the “world’s first fully bonded and complete system solar power plant” on June 5.
A 246-foot-tall (75-meter) steel tower on Xidian University’s South Campus houses the space solar power plant.
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Xidian University’s power plant will theoretically connect to orbiting satellites that will collect solar electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week due to their geostationary orbits, before transmitting this energy to Earth via beams of high frequency microwaves. The plant will include five subsystems dedicated to the development of space solar panels.
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Solar power from space has a lot of potential because it can collect power continuously without having to deal with issues like bad weather or waiting for the sun to come up. However, there are still hurdles to overcome, such as determining the impact of a high-frequency energy beam on communications, air traffic and the health of local populations.
Xidian University’s new ground station is part of a space solar energy concept called OMEGA, which stands for Orb-Shape Membrane Energy Gathering Array. Duan Baoyan from Xidian University School of Electromechanical Engineering and his colleagues first presented the proposal in 2014.
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