04 September 2011

China Unveils Plan to Orbit Solar Power Station


China Unveils Plan to Orbit Solar Power Station

A plan to build and orbit a Chinese solar energy station for commercial use by 2040 has been developed by space technology pioneer Wang Xiji. The plan calls for a complete analysis of space solar power applications, detailed design of system solutions and verification of key technologies by 2020.
“The development of a solar power station in space will fundamentally change the way in which people exploit and obtain power,” said Wang while presenting the results of his team’s research at the China Academy of Sciences.
“Whoever takes the lead in the development and utilization of clean and renewable energy and the space and aviation industry will be the world leader,” said Wang at the fourth China Energy Environment Summit Forum on Aug 28.
Wang, 90, believes such a station will trigger a technical revolution in the fields of new energy, new material, solar power and electricity, and possibly even another industrial revolution.
Wang envisions the program using existing technology to launch solar-collector satellites into geostationary orbit. These satellites would convert the sun’s radiation into electricity 24 hours a day and safely transmit it via microwaves to rectifying antennas on Earth. The concept had first been proposed in 1968 by U.S. space expert Peter Glaser.
Currently, the U.S., Japan, Europe and Russia have plans to invest several billion dollars to establish a number of 1 million-kilowatt power stations between 2030 and 2040.
Though China has taken no such steps for a space-based solar energy station, it has made rapid progress in developing earth-based solar power. In 2010 China had 800,000 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic power capacity and 168 million square meters of area using solar-powered water heating.
China’s 12th five-year plan aims to boost the country’s solar photovoltaic power generation capacity to 10 million kilowatts by 2015 and 20 million kilowatts by 2020.
The efficiencies that can be realized by an orbiting solar power station would let it harness five times the solar energy captured by comparable stations on the ground.

from: http://news.ifeng.com/mil/4/detail_2011_07/12/7634514_0.shtml
also discussed at Pakistan Defense: http://www.defence.pk/forums/china-defence/119745-chinas-space-solar-power-station-million-tons-cost-up-1-trillion.html#post1946550

At 10:44 on July 12, 2011

China's space solar power plant: thousands of tons cost up to $ 1 trillion

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Space solar power diagram (Figure)
Do you dare? Construction of power stations in space
The very large solar arrays placed in Earth orbit, composed of solar power stations, solar power plant will be solar energy into electrical energy. American scientist Peter Glasgow in 1968 race (Peter Glaser) first proposed the idea of ​​space solar power station built, the basic idea is: the very large solar arrays placed in Earth orbit, composed of solar power stations, will be inexhaustible , inexhaustible solar energy into thousands of megawatts of power, then electrical energy into microwave energy, and the use of microwave or wireless transmission to Earth.
Energy conversion device converts electrical energy into a form of microwave or laser (laser or directly through the solar energy conversion), and using the antenna beam can be sent to the ground. Have information that, in theory, in the sunny geostationary orbit, each square meter of solar heat can produce 1336 watts, if deployed in a geostationary orbit width of 1,000 meters of solar arrays ring, assuming the conversion 100% efficiency, then it receives in the year is almost equal to the flux of solar radiation on Earth are known to contain recoverable oil reserves of the total energy.
Ground receiving system receives the space solar power station can transmit to the beam, and through the conversion device to convert it into electricity. The whole process has gone through solar energy - electricity - microwave (laser) - Power of energy into the process. Space solar power plant construction and operation of the process also need to include large-scale delivery systems, space transportation systems, and complex logistics system. 
China's development of space solar power station "four-step" scenario
Currently, the domestic space solar power station is still in its infancy stage.China Academy of Space Technology in the space solar power station sponsored national seminar on the development of technology, experts proposed the development of space solar power station in China "road map." Summed up in four stages:
Phase I: 2011 and 2020
Full analysis of space solar power plant applications, space solar power station to carry out detailed design of system solutions and key technologies, key technologies for authentication.
Verify wireless energy transmission technology focus, efficient high-power solar power technology, launched large-scale structure of the assembly and high voltage power supply system, there are ground-power wireless energy transmission experiment, the ground started large-scale structure and assembly technology, testing, to face the stratosphere airship wireless energy transmission experiment, relying on the space station launched a large-scale structure and assembly technology testing.
Space solar power station will be very huge objects, quality of tons or more. (Figure)
Phase II: 2021 -2025 years
Use of our space station platform, the participation of the astronauts to conduct China's first low-orbit space solar power system development, system validation carried out in 2025. Focus on verification of large deployable space structures and assembly of large space condenser system and its control, power supply management system, large-scale structure of the attitude control technology, wireless energy transfer technology (laser, microwave), space solar power plant operation and maintenance management .
Phase III: 2026 -2040 years
In the low-orbit validation of key technologies on the basis of further research more economically and technically viable space solar power system solutions and key technologies, breaking the track between the high-power electric propulsion technology, developed by Earth's orbit validation system, about 2030 around the launch of the space - ground, space - space wireless energy transmission system to carry out validation, the development of commercial systems provide important operating parameters. System operating life of 10 years. Preliminary consideration of the system for their own space in the low-orbit assembly, and the use of the space station and astronauts some assembly work, and solve problems in space assembly, assembly and testing is completed, the overall delivered to geosynchronous orbit.
Phase IV: 2036 -2050 years
Combined with the operational status verification system, combined with technological development, the development of China's first commercial space solar power systems, space solar power plant to achieve commercial operation, operational life of 30 years.
Space solar power station faces huge challenges
The current building space solar power station is the first technical problem.Space solar power station is a huge project for existing spacecraft technology made a great challenge: a large scale, quality and reach million tons, higher than the current satellite four orders of magnitude, requires new materials and new vehicle technology; area of ​​several square kilometers, higher than the current satellite six orders of magnitude, we need a special structure, assembly and attitude control of space technology; power, generating power for GW, higher than the current satellite six orders of magnitude, the need special power management and thermal control technology; long life, at least 30 years, compared with more than double the current satellites, new materials and in-orbit maintenance technology; high efficiency, the need for advanced space solar power conversion technology and microwave conversion transmission technology.
Second is cost. Some experts estimate, the construction of a space-based solar power would cost 300 billion to 1 trillion U.S. dollars. Therefore, the cost might be restricting the development of space solar power station of the main factors. In the new concepts, new technologies and large-scale commercial before the income is difficult to compensate for the overall system construction and operating costs.
Long-range energy transfer is a huge technical issues (information)
Once again, the environmental impact. Although the power of large space solar power station, but due to microwave energy transmission distance (36,000 km), according to the transmission characteristics of microwave energy, the energy density of the actual receiving antenna is low.
Finally, operational issues. Space solar power plant operation in many issues, including the need to take appropriate measures to secure control of the beam problem, the impact of the aircraft, space debris on space solar power station may cause local damage, easy to attack, could become space junk, etc. In addition, there are orbits and frequencies, capacity, ability to launch and other issues.
Outside the program
USA 1979 SPS Reference System: This is the first relatively complete space solar power plant system design, completed in 1979 by the United States to the United States half of the generating capacity of the target design. The design for the layout of the geostationary orbit on 60 power-generating capacity of 5 GW of power generation satellites.
Integrated Symmetrical Concentrator systems: NASA in the late 1990s, the SERT research program proposed in the plan. Located on both sides of the mast with a large clam-shaped solar reflector to the condenser is located in the center of two photovoltaic arrays. Condenser for the sun, the mast, the battery array, transmitting array as a whole, rotation on the ground. Condenser and the mast rotation in response to each other daily and seasonal variations of the track.
Distributed tethered satellite system in Japan: a single module to reduce the complexity and weight of Japanese scientists proposed a distributed concept of tethered satellite. The basic unit consists of a size of 100 meters × 95 meters of the unit board, and satellite platforms, cell boards and satellite platforms using four 2 km to 10 km of rope suspension together. By the solar cell board, microwave conversion device and the transmitting antenna consisting of sandwich board, contains a total of 3800 modules. The total weight of each cell board is about 42.5 tons, microwave energy transmission power of 2.1 MW. Board composed of units from the 25 sub-panels, 25 sub-boards throughout the system. The design of the modular design is very clear, is conducive to system assembly, maintenance. But the system continued to show great quality, in particular, the use of less efficient.
European solar sail tower: Europe in 1998, "Space and explore the use of the system concept, structure and technology research" proposed in the plan of the European concept of solar sail tower. It is based on the solar tower concept of the United States, and the use of many new technologies. The most important is the use of lightweight structures that can be expanded - a solar sail. It can significantly reduce overall system weight and reduce the difficulty of assembling the system. Each of which a solar sail as a battery array module size of 150 m × 150 m, automatically launched into orbit, assembled in low-Earth orbit system, and through the electric thrusters to geosynchronous transfer orbit. Since the program uses the gradient method to achieve stable directional transmitting antenna on Earth, so solar panels can not achieve sustained directed against Japan. (Purple Xiao Shao Huiying)
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Space solar power test vehicle simulation diagram (Figure)
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Imagine the map of space solar power station (information)
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Imagine the map of space solar power station (information)
Space solar power installations imagine diagram (Figure)
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Ground huge solar panels solar power station (information)
Use in future space solar power will be a core technology (information)
Figure imagine future space colonies (information)
Dr. APJ Kalam also gave a recent address in China On Space Solar Power
Speeches / Lectures

Address at the CEES 2011 
Delhi – Beijing Teleconference Aug 27 2011
Updated on Aug 28 2011
Published bywww.abdulkalam.com
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"Inventions and discoveries have emanated from creative minds that have been constantly working and imagining the outcome in the mind. With imagining and constant effort, all the forces of the universe work for that inspired mind, thereby leading to inventions and discoveries."
I am delighted to address the Opening Ceremony of the 3rd China Energy and Environment Summit. I congratulate the organizers of this Summit for their devoted and dedicated efforts to bring together eminent leaders and experts on a common platform for exchange of views, for high-level dialogue and discussions on a topic of profound importance to all humanity. It is essential that the energy policy of the nations and clean environment for the planet earth have to be integrated in our thoughts and actions. I am sure, CEES will achieve this goal during the deliberations of this summit.
This Summit seeks rightly, views and ideas on finding feasible technical and economic solutions for the energy and environmental crisis faced by the world. Both China and India stand for a multi-polar world and insist on comprehensively improving and developing relations with major powers in an effort to create a sound international environment for their sustainable economic development. When I am with all of you I would like to share some thoughts on the topic "HARVESTING SPACE SOLAR POWER THROUGH WORLD KNOWLEDGE PLATFORM".
Since, harvesting solar power from space involves a multi dimensional space program jointly initiated by all the space faring nations, present and in the future, I would like first discuss with all of you about my own experience as a space scientist and the space vision required to achieve societal missions from space, which includes harnessing energy from space.
Evolution of space vision
I have been advocating International cooperation for the large scale space missions including space based solar satellites, whenever I had an occasion to interact with the international space communities. I have evolved a World Space Vision 2050 which I am going to discuss. This space vision further gone through various discussion at international space forum at Caltech ? USA, Boston University, International Space University, Strasburg; CNES, France; and 58th International Astronautical Congress at Hyderabad-India. There was also a panel discussion on "Space and the Environment, Sensible Space Investment" in the CALTECH campus. I also visited JPL and had a briefing on some futuristic research; development and mission efforts related to exploration of solar system and beyond, search for extra terrestrial life, further moon exploration and Mars exploration. Today with the space community including Chinese space experts in the CEES 2011. As I was interacting with international space experts and listening to the presentations on the various national space missions, the following thoughts on the challenges for space community have emerged to me.
The challenges for space community
The problem facing the humanity on life on earth and protection and sustainability of environment, requires many areas of research like integrated study of atmosphere, accurate forecasting and predictions of climate and weather, breakthroughs in earthquake forecasting, making energy independence and finding solution to water problems for the growing population for the world and fast track improvement of education and healthcare system throughout the globe. They require integrated global approaches and synergy of all space faring nations.
While in the last fifty years, tremendous progress has been made by space faring nations in space science, technology and applications, our understanding of our own planet is limited, and we have much less knowledge of moon, mars, other planets and the solar system and beyond. I find planning and conducting such missions need lead times of the order of 10-15 years and individual nations find it difficult to increase the rate of exploration momentum with the available technology level, funds and human resources.
In the last fifty years, space faring nations have developed core competence like strong application orientation in India, planetary mission and space station capabilities in USA and Russia, a model of nations working together in Europe and manned space mission capability in China. The launch vehicle and spacecraft expertise exist in many of the space faring countries. There have been a number of missions with bilateral and multilateral partnership with several complimentary efforts. The question is whether the international cooperation is consistent with the challenges of the next fifty years. Can we graduate in the ensuing years to partnership missions among space faring nations for the benefit of entire humanity using the core competence of multiple nations, financial sharing and management mechanism with overall goals like solar power satellite, industrial belt on the Moon and the habitat on the Mars. Political will and concern for the well being of planet earth have to be the focus for such international missions.
Missions can be evolved, but one important constraint among space faring nations is the non-availability of the right type of young human resources. I heard many space experts in the conference in CALTECH during 2007, as to how they were inspired by sputnik and Apollo era and I have witnessed the tremendous response it had created among the youth and the experienced when India?s Chandrayan-I with NASA Payload M3 discovered H2O/HO water molecule in Moon. So what we need is a global vision that would attract the imagination of young and inspire them to their own dreams to achieve. Spotting young talent and training them requires attention internationally.
There was strong feeling among many participants that enough communication is not ensured by the performing space community with general public on the system they have created using space technology for welfare fo the humanity.
World Space Vision 2050
With the above background and strength of technological progress in Space systems in the world, I have been suggesting to the World Space Community to evolve World Space Vision 2050 with the following three components:
1. Large Scale Societal missions and Low cost access to space: There is definitely a need for space faring nations to work together to develop reusable launch vehicles, which can bring down the cost of payload in orbit from the present US $ 20,000 per kg to US $ 2000 per kg and eventually to $200 per kg

2. Comprehensive space security: I suggested the creation of an International Space Force (ISF) made up of all space faring nations wishing to participate and contribute to protect world space assets in a manner, which will enable peaceful use of space on a global cooperative basis.

3. Space exploration and current application missions: Space exploration mission for material like helium3, water and life and the current application missions in tele-communication, remote sensing and other societal applications and considering Earth-moon-mars as a single economic complex for the benefit of humanity.
Paradigm shift in foreseeing space of next fifty years
I am of the view that the present capabilities of major space faring nations are not optimally utilized. The launch vehicles of the world, the spacecraft of the world, the application potential of the world, the space scientific research potential of the world and above all the huge costs envisaged for space 2050 programmes would call for certain "paradigm shift" in nations to work together to bring the benefits of space to humanity as a whole. This is possible as my experience suggests, only if we have a hard cooperation of each nation contributing substantially in technology and resource. In this context, I would like to share with you two Indian experiences in international cooperation.
One, is a Joint venture programme between India and Russia with equally shared funding of $300 million that has resulted into development leading to production of a world?s first supersonic cruise missile called Brahmos in the defence sector leading to the business worth of $10 Billion.
Another experience of India is the Pan African e-Network Initiative costing over $120 million, for connecting 53 Pan African Nations for providing tele-education, tele-medicine, and e-governance services meeting the Millennium Development Goals of Africa set by United Nations. Similarly USA, Europe, China and other countries have many experiences in hard cooperation. These experiences give me the confidence that hard international cooperation, resulting dedicated funds, fixed timelines leading to designed products which are mutually beneficial to all the participating nations, indeed can accelerate the application of space science and technology leading to fast results for societal application. Such international cooperation itself aid the security dimension in space. Two international teams,one on technology and the other in creative management could be formed to come up with proposals and investments to achieve the goal of low cost access to space. Such an accomplishment of a goal would enable taking up mass missions that were not in the realm of individual nations hither to fore. A world space vision can trigger many young towards hitherto "impossible" challenges. With this background let me propose a management structure for realizing the visions.
World Space Council
The World Space Vision 2050 would enhance the quality of human life, inspire the spirit of space exploration, expand the horizons of knowledge, and ensure space security for all nations of the world.
In this context, I suggest to the China Energy and Environment Summit (CEES) members, to evolve and recommend the implementation of a World Space Council, consisting of space faring nations, to formulate and implement World Space Vision as discussed. The World Space Council with global participation could oversee the planning and implementation of exploration, energy and societal missions. Such a unified approach will enable the world to see a quantum jump in the progress in space science and technology for the benefit of all the nations of the world. Many of you represent countries that have brought about the incredible space revolution in the last 50 years. What we need today is a step function as a global space initiative to implement a World Space Vision and missions for an enhanced quality of life for a peaceful and safe world. One of the important missions of this council would be to develop and deploy space systems needed for harvesting and transmitting energy from space to earth. Let me discuss this aspect in detail.
Space Based Solar Power:
On the 30th May 2010, I addressed the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) where I talked about the possibilities of harvesting energy from space through space based solar power. This conference was attended by many of the experts from the space community, who got interested with the presentation I had made. This led to further discussions and formulations which culminated into the evolution of the idea of Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative for Space Solar Power Satellite with focus on convergence of competencies from different nations towards the realization of a futuristic mission for green energy from space. On the 4th of November 2010, this initiative was declared to the global audience by National Space Society of United States and was participated by representatives from Indian Space Research Organization and Artemis Innovation Management.
"Kalam NSS Initiative on Space Solar Power Satellite"
The sun, as you all know, radiates about 10 trillion times the energy which human consumer across the world today. If we are able to extract even a small portion of this energy from the sun, it would be sufficient to secure the energy demands of our future.
Friends, space based solar power has many advantages over traditional terrestrial based solar plants. First, the level of Solar Irradiance is about 1.4 times in extraterrestrial level than at the surface of the earth. Second, in case of surface based solar power plants the panels can collect solar power for about 6 ? 8 hours a day, whereas, in the case of space based power plant, the collection time is full 24 hours. Also, the space based solar power plants are not affected by the weather conditions, which may bring down the efficiency in case of terrestrial power plant. Thus space based solar power plant would be far more effective in their efficiency and power generation than the land based systems.
There are three major focus areas in the space based solar power plant. First component is the space based solar power plant. Second, is the earth based collection system. And the third important aspect is the medium of transmission from space to earth.

The aspect of safety and efficiency has to be paramount in the way energy is transmitted from space back to earth ? either through microwave or any other technology like laser technology. Careful research of the impact and safety concerns would have to be conducted.

One way to increase safety and improve efficiency could be the evolution of nano-packs, which are reusable, and can move like small batteries carrying charge back and forth from space solar station to ground reception. Another, approach could be to make the reception centres as pre-designated offshore sites to reduce the safety issues.
Another important factor is the cost of the space based power plant, which given the current launch technologies, would be very high and needs to brought down. Among the largest cost components of installing a space based solar power plant will be the launching cost of the components into the orbit. The current estimates range in billion of dollars for an average plant size. There is a need to bring down this cost. The long term cost of a space solar power plant for time period of 20 years of operation has to be brought down to under $0.10 per Kw-h to make it economically sustainable. Can we do this? It has to come through a multi-pronged approach.
When I am with such enlightened audience like all of you, I would like to share a new thought on transmission of solar power from space to earth, that may be safe and cost-effective. Science has history of making the impossible, today, and a reality of tomorrow. I venture now to suggest some ideas that may sound highly challenging and leave as food for thought for all of you to take up the challenge, for I am sure that if best brains gathered here, vouch to work together, all these impossible dreamer?s ideas will become real and the world become the best place to live. Having established that the space is another destination for the man?s quest for renewable energy, I have few ideas that may be out of the ordinary. While one could approach the transmission of energy from space through micro waves and laser beams from space, I am thinking of attempting to transport "nano energy packs" , like nano batteries back and forth between space and earth. These nano energy packs may contain materials hitherto unknown but would store the energy through reversible chemical reaction or may be electrical reaction and when brought back to earth, can deliver energy per kg of payload touching several hundreds of watt hours. During my visit to Rice University, USA on 22 August this year, I met nano-technology scientist experts at Nano centre of Rice University which has created two Nobel Laureates (Robert Curl and Richard E Smalley) in nano-chemistry. I was very happy to know, this Rice University group is also working on flexible nano-structure for solar power storage. Dear friends, you may like to think about it and our research scientists can work on nano energy packs. The scientists of any part of the world can contact for further discussion through my e-mail ID apj@abdulkalam.com .
Conclusion: Proposal for a Global SSP Feasibility Study Initiative
In view if these 20th and early 21st century developments in the energy and aerospace sectors of national economies, several space faring nations now have the capability to team up and cooperate in an enduring, firmly integrated consortium of stakeholders to further the development of international space based solar power stations and all the required enabling technologies such as safe, affordable and reliable access to space. Steps forward could be taken up in a self-renewing manner in three phases:
Phase 1: International Preliminary Feasibility Study (2-3 years)
Phase 2: Detailed Feasibility Study and Engineering Demonstrations on Ground and in Space (5-7 years).
Phase 3: Industrialization (self-sustaining & self-renewing far into the future (20 years).
World Knowledge Platform : For the realization of these missions, we have to share knowledge world-wide, and feely exchange data and information to establish the technical and economic feasibility of designing, building and operating a system-of-systems consisting of low cost space transportation and space solar satellites. I suggest this is done in an open and transparent manner through a consortium of selected world universities, laboratories and industries organized and administered as a World Space Knowledge Platform. This knowledge platform may be recommended in the form of a global not-for-profit Foundation, as the first immediate step by mutual understanding between interested nations. Once the Feasibility Study that would include scaled version of technology demonstrations of SSP and its critical enabling technologies to a world space standard, is completed, then subsequent action could commence on commercial scales organized. Many nations are participating in this CEES 2011 from G8 nations. As India and China are always invited for crucial meeting of G8 nations, it is time CEES can think of white paper on solar power station indicating, how clean energy, cost effective energy, abundance energy is possible through solar power satellites.

My best wishes to all the members present at CEES 2011 in their mission of evolving and implementing new clean green energy initiatives from space for rejuvenating our planet.

May God Bless you.

By, Dr. APJ Abdulkalam

China Space Agency Looks To Capture Sun's Power

Space Agency Looks To Capture Sun's Power
By Stephen Chen [binglin.chen@scmp.com]
Hong Kong South China Morning Post Online in English
Sep 3, 2011
A mainland space agency says the government should build solar power stations in space to solve China's energy problems.
The China Academy of Space Technology, a research institute under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, said on its website on Thursday that it had submitted a plan to the central government to build a massive facility in space to capture solar power and relay it to earth to generate electricity.
Li Ming, deputy director of the academy, received enthusiastic feedback on the ambitious plan at a conference on Wednesday that included senior officials from the National Development and Reform Commission, the National Energy Administration and other agencies, the statement said.
The mainland is home to the world's largest manufacturing plants of solar panels, and with the bankruptcy of three US manufacturers in the last month, mainland companies now dominate the world supply, accounting for almost three-fifths of total capacity, a report in The New York Times said yesterday.
Economies of scale, low wages and technological advances have enabled Chinese companies to make solar panels cheaply, firing up mainland space scientists' ambitions.
Professor Wang Xiji, a key drafter of the proposal, wrote an article in the Ministry of Science and Technology newspaper Science Times saying that China had built up a solid industrial foundation, acquired sufficient technology and had enough money to carry out the most ambitious space project in history.
Once completed, the solar station, with a capacity of 100MW, would span at least one square kilometre, dwarfing the International Space Station and becoming the biggest man-made object in space, he wrote.
Wang said the solar station would overcome several shortcomings of earth-based plants, such as sensitivity to weather, wasteful land use and a complete shutdown at night. Put in a permanent geostationary orbit, high enough to escape most of the earth's shadow, it would provide a consistent energy supply for 99 per cent of the year.
Wang warned that if it did not act quickly, China would let other countries, in particular theUS and Japan, take the lead and occupy strategically important locations in space.
The US space agency Nasa proposed a solar power station as early as the 1960s, while Japan's Jaxa selected a group of companies and researchers in 2009 to design and build the Space Solar Power System, a massive array of photovoltaic panels, with an anticipated launch date of 2020.
But some scientists said a solar station in space faced technical hurdles that could not be solved by today's technology. The problems include how to lift a large amount of construction materials into space, how to put them together and how to transfer the energy to earth.
Chinese space scientists are considering lasers and microwaves, generating concentrated beams that could travel a long distance with relatively little energy loss. But they have not figured out how to protect people or birds that might get in the way.
Professor Jiang Kaili, a physicist at Tsinghua University, said that in theory wireless energy transmission was possible. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US had used strong resonate coupling technology to transfer energy via a magnetic near-field with impressive efficiency.
"The range of transmission reaches a few metres," he said. "It will need to get out of a room before venturing to space."

China unveils plan for solar power station in space

From: http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20110902000023&cid=1105

China unveils plan for solar power station in space

Chinese space technology pioneer Wang Xiji believes solar energy stations in outer space will be a key energy resource in the future. (File Photo/CFP)
"The development of a solar power station in space will fundamentally change the way in which people exploit and obtain power," Wang Xiji, a space technology pioneer at the China Academy of Sciences, said while presenting the results of his team's research on developing such a station.
Speaking about China's ambitious space solar energy program, 90-year-old Wang said such a station could promote international cooperation. "Whoever takes the lead in the development and utilization of clean and renewable energy and the space and aviation industry will be the world leader," Wang said at the fourth China Energy Environment Summit Forum on Aug 28.
The program will utilize existing technology to launch solar-collector satellites into geostationary orbit. These satellites will convert the sun's radiation into electricity 24 hours a day,and safely transmit the electricity via microwaves to rectifying antennas on Earth. The concept was first proposed by US space expert Peter Glaser in 1968.
Currently, the United States, Japan, Europe and Russia have plans to invest several billion US dollars in establishing their own 1 million-kilowatt power stations to begin operation between 2030 and 2040. China has not yet taken its first step in this regard.
A team led by Wang completed research on the development, timelines and policy for space solar power station technology in August. The program offers guidelines for developing such a station. It aims to complete analysis of space solar power applications, detailed design of system solutions and key technologies as well as key technologies for authentication by 2020. Under the plan, a space solar energy station for commercial use will be completed by 2040.
Wang believes such a station will trigger a technical revolution in the fields of new energy, new material, solar power and electricity.
Wang said the area of space and aviation is an emerging strategic industry and the development of a space solar-energy station requires high-end technology. Such a program would lead to the emergence of several industries, Wang said. He believes it could lead to a technical revolution and possibly even an industrial revolution.
China's solar energy stations down on planet Earth have developed rapidly. In 2010, the country's solar photovoltaic power capacity was 800,000 kilowatts, while 168 million square meters of area used solar-powered water heating.
The government's 12th five-year plan also proposes increasing the country's solar photovoltaic power generation capacity to 10 million kilowatts by 2015 and 20 million kilowatts by 2020.
It is estimated that a solar power stationin orbit could harness five times the solar energy captured by stations on the ground.
Li Ming, a space technology expert said that after 50 years of development, China's space and aviation industry has made significant progress and laid a sound foundation for a space solar power station.
Wang Xiji 王希季
Read more here:
Solar Power Satellites Research in China
Gao JiHou Xinbin, and Wang Li
China Academy of Space Technology

In its long-term vision, the responsibility for ensuring China's food safety for its huge population, meeting its international obligations for environmental protection and providing the structure for its energy needs have determined that the direction of future development of low-carbon energy sources cannot be to sacrifice the "inner" earth. Thus, the state has decided that power coming from outside of the earth, such as solar power and development of other space energy resources, is to be China's future direction.
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Space based solar power (SBSP), and the development of solar power satellites (SPS) to facilitate renewable energy production, is one of the "outside" approaches currently under development in China. Based on China's future vision for energy development, this paper will present why SPS development is important for China. A brief introduction to China's SPS project is given.
Energy Status and Future in China
According to a report released by China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in February 2009, in 2008 China's total energy consumption reached 2.85 billion tons of standard coal, while its electricity consumption reached 3.45 trillion KWh, a recorded 5.6% increase over the previous year. The annual report on China' Energy Development, pointing to the prospect for future energy demand, shows that in 2020, 2030 and 2050, China's total energy consumption of standard coal will climb to 3.5 billion, 4.2 billion and 5.0 billion tons respectively. In 2050, about 85% of the growth in energy demand can feed from fossil fuels, from nuclear power, and from hydropower. Only 30% of the remaining 15% of that growth in energy demand can be met the energy by non-hydro renewable energy resources, such as wind power, bio-energy, terrestrial solar power and tidal energy. That means that by 2050, despite China's continuing growth in energy production based on traditional energy areas, there is a considerable energy gap (approx. 10.5%), for which the state must look to such newer energy producing approaches as fusion and space power stations.
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Source: Annual Report on China's Energy Development
The Chinese Academy of Engineering's cautionary report has shown that the fossil energy reserves in China, such as oil, coal and natural gas, will be exhausted in the next 15 years, 82 years and 46 years correspondingly. How to fix the perceived loss of traditional energy resources has become an important problem for China's government. The CAE report also raises the question of growing public concerns over higher fossil fuel prices. More recently, in a 2009 global environmental summit in Copenhagen, the Chinese government promised that by 2020 China's greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced to 40% compared with 2005. It suggests that the government believes that continuing to develop energy resources and environment protection are not internally inconsistent, and that low-carbon energy has a promising future in China.
Why SPS is important for China
Since 1968, when Dr. Peter Glaser proposed the first SPS scenario, the concept of solar power satellites has been under consideration. During those 40-plus years, the renewable energy requirement for electricity has been continuously going up. As one of the principal economies in the world, China is thirsty for energy to water its blooming industries. SPS is regarded as a reasonable path to energy production. Either from geostationary earth orbit (GEO) or in low earth orbit (LEO), this type of power system will have more direct access to the power of the sun. In analyzing the characteristics of SPS and space solar power applications, the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) concludes that the advantages of SPS for China can be grouped into three relevant directions: sustainable economic and social development, disaster prevention and mitigation, and the retaining of qualified personnel and the cultivating of innovative talents.
Sustainable development: With its population growth and rapid economic development, over the next 30 years China will become one of the most powerful and influential economies of the world. During this time, energy resources and environmental issues will be serious challenges for China. To avoid the grave consequences and to learn lessons drawn from others' mistakes, a sustainable development strategy will need to be adopted. This strategy can be expected to include renewable energy sources from outside earth to alter the heavily reliance on fossil fuels, a process that will contribute to world energy development and assure environment protection.
The acquisition of space solar power will require development of fundamental new aerospace technologies, such as revolutionary launch approaches, ultra-thin solar arrays, on- orbit manufacture/assembly/integration (MAI), precise attitude control, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) for deep space exploration and space colonial expansion. Since SPS development will be a huge project, it will be considered the equivalent of an Apollo program for energy. In the last century, America's leading position in science and technology worldwide was inextricably linked with technological advances associated with implementation of the Apollo program. Likewise, as China's current achievements in aerospace technology are built upon with its successive generations of satellite projects in space, China will use its capabilities in space science to assure sustainable development of energy from space.
Disaster prevention and mitigation: In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed thousands of people in the U.S. Meanwhile, every year several typhoons bother the east coast of China. From preliminary research, it appears that microwave wireless power transmission may heat the top of the clouds, thereby reducing the force of typhoons and hurricanes. In 2008, China's southern region experienced a rare snowstorm; such an extreme weather attack led to a complete paralysis of the entire southern power grid due to the frozen grid. Without wired power supplied, the economy of the Southern provinces suffered heavy losses in the first few months of 2008. Again, if there had been an operational SPS power system in China, wireless power transmission quite possibly could have unfrozen the grid, and restored power to the region.
In May 2008, in the great Sichuan region, a deadly earthquake measured at 8.0 magnitude killed thousands of lives. The most important steps to be taken in mitigating the effects of that earthquake was to rebuild the human support system and provide an alternative communication system, each of which depended on the reinstatement of power supply systems. As space satellite systems can help to supply prompt restoration of terrestrial communications, and space solar power systems can achieve wireless power transmission via microwave and laser beams, space-based solutions would have been the fastest and most appropriate way to crack those problems.
Retaining and cultivating talent: China understands that having an innovative, qualified and skilled workforce is the basic infrastructure on which national development can proceed. Higher education in China is developing rapidly, but the state lacks talent at both ends of its research lines, that is in advanced concept research and in basic/technical sciences research. Objectively and actually, these are currently greater problems than finding financial sources for research. CAST is of the opinion that in order to attract more outstanding personnel and to generate a magnetic field for attracting more college students into basic sciences and engineering, it is necessary for China to launch an SPS-type Apollo project to increase research and development investment in all corollary fields. This will relate to the country's goal of attaining the leading position in both energy and space technology.
SPS Research in China
China's first SPS research started in the late 20th century. In the new millennium, when the energy issue became a constraint on sustainable development in China, the China Academy of Space Technology submitted to the government a "Necessity and Feasibility Study Report of SPS." Later, an SPS concept design was activated, approved and funded by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). CAST's present SPS system oriented study is the first to address its key components, and to define a baseline or reference system that will allow a relatively accurate determination of mass and cost in China.
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The CAST SPS research team conceives that there are four imperative sections for SPS development: launching approach, in-orbit construction/multi-agents, high efficiency solar conversion and wireless transmission. Except for launch, the other aspects do not seem to be insurmountable issues for China in the upcoming years.
Based on China's SPS scenario, there are 5 steps to achieving the first commercial SPS system. In 2010, CAST will finish the concept design; in 2020, we will finish the industrial level testing of in-orbit construction and wireless transmissions. In 2025, we will complete the first 100kW SPS demonstration at LEO; and in 2035, the 100mW SPS will have electric generating capacity. Finally in 2050, the first commercial level SPS system will be in operation at GEO.
In order to meet China's increasing energy desires, space solar power will be sought after as an inexhaustible energy source. Solar power satellites will play an increasingly significant role in the environment protection associated with the various carbon emission reduction schemes. More and more, sustainable development will be linked to securing sun's energy as the boundless, clean and reusable energy resource of the future.

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