Solar in Space – China’s Plans Revealed.

Chinese media are reporting that solar in space may not be as far off as we think – they’re revealed plans to build a power station orbiting the earth. Let’s take a look at the plans and see what other countries are also working on renewable energy in the solar system. 

Solar in Space – How does it work?

Solar in Space - Mars Rover (source: nasa.gov)
Solar in Space – Mars Rover (source: nasa.gov)

Chinese Media have made a statement about the solar space race – their idea is that a station could orbit the earth at 36,000 kilometres – enough to get the sun’s energy but not experience any atmosphere interference. Seasonal and night-time loss of sunlight will also be totally negated, so the station would be able to generate significantly more power than those on earth which are subject to the sun’s whims.

Chinese journal Science and Technology Daily has reported that the city of Chongqing is the host of construction of an early experimental space solar plant. 

Pang Zhihao, researcher from the China Academy of Space Technology Corporation, said a space solar power station held the promise of providing “an inexhaustible source of clean energy for humans”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The space solar station would be able to supply energy at 6x the power of solar farms on earth – reliably supplying energy “99%” of the time. 

The next plan for China is to build and launch a number of small/medium sized solar power stations which will be launched into the stratosphere between 2021 – 2025. 

According to the SMH Japanese, Indian and European scientists are also working on the best way to generate solar power in space. What impact could this unlimited power have on things like the Mars Rover which was ‘pronounced dead‘ over the last week? According to the researches, the energy would be converted to electricity and send to the earth via a microwave or laser beam – so they’ll need to work on ensuring this won’t have any bad effects on atmosphere or the earth in general before it goes ahead. 

 
 

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Solar Roads in China almost ready for testing

Solar Roads in China are being trialled, according to Electrek. The roadways have solar panels underneath them that may have myriad benefits such as wireless charging, digitally assisting driverless cars, powering streetlights, signs, charging stations, and so on. Once a laughable idea due to the cost, massive improvements in technology mean that we are edging closer towards having true ‘solar highways’ at some point in the near future. 

Solar Roads In China

Solar Roads in China
Solar Roads in China (source: en.people.cn)

The Jinan City Expressway, the stretch of solar roadway currently being constructed, is a 1.2 mile (a little under 2km) stretch of road which has transparent concrete being laid over a layer of solar panels. The construction is already complete and it’s currently waiting to be connected to the grid – they expect this to be completed by the end of the year. It’s actually the second solar roadway in China – with the first being completed in Jinan by the Quilu Transporation Development Group, which has 790 square yards of solar panels and is currently performing well. 

Technical Details

The solar highway has been designed with three discrete layers – on top a transparent concrete which is, for all intents and purposes, the same as regular bitumen/asphalt. In the middle are the specially-designed ‘weight bearing’ solar panels, and below them another layer to separate the panels from the damp earth below. According to Elektrek even medium sized trucks will be able to drive on the solar highway. 

Although the project’s technology is markedly different, it is in some ways similar to the Dutch SONOB highway installation earlier this year – where they use Infrastructure Integrated Photovoltaics (IIPV) (Also known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)) in order to help power sound barriers, lights and more.

Given that Jinan is one of the most polluted cities in China, it’s great to see them working on a second solar road and hopefully this is just the beginning. 

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Floating Solar Energy Farm in China

A traditional ‘coal city’ in Huainan, in China’s eastern Anhui province, has launched the biggest floating solar energy plant. Ironically enough, it’s floating on a lake over a collapsed coal mine.

Floating Solar Technology

Floating Solar Energy Farm in China
Floating Solar Energy Farm in China (source: sungrowpower.com)

The floating PV solar plant in Huainan will be operated by Sungrow Power Supply and can generate 40MW – enough to power 15,000 homes. This is double as much as the previous biggest floating power plant, which was located in the same province and manufactured by Xinyi Solar last year. Floating solar has myriad benefits including the fact that the water can cool down the solar panels (funnily enough overheating solar panels is a big problem so this proves a neat way of mitigating the issue). It’s also better to build the floating solar plants on manmade lakes as they are not ecologically sensitive, according to The Guardian. These manmade lakes can be left behind as a result of intensive strip mining so it is also a somewhat poetic way to watch the world transfer to ecologically friendly renewable energy without compromising any ecology.

Solar Power in China

Although this floating solar farm is certainly an impressive feat, when compared to China’s land based solar it is quite small. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park produces a Brobdingnagian 850MW via 4 million solar panels, and this is set to be shown up by a 2GW (2000MW) project in the Ningxia Autonomous Region which will have 6 million solar panels and commenced phase 1 of construction in 2013. When completed, it will cover 4,607 hectares and will cost $2.34billion USD ($3.11b AUD).

The park is now almost the size of Macau, according to NASA – have a look at the images below to see its transformation from 2013 – 2017.

Hopefully energy storage in Australia can start thinking big like China – we have huge areas of unused space that would be perfect for a massive project like this.

Longyangxia Dam Solar Park Progress - 2013 (source: NASA)
Longyangxia Dam Solar Park Progress – 2013 (source: NASA)
Longyangxia Dam Solar Park
Longyangxia Dam Solar Park Progress – 2017 (source: NASA)

 

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