I hope this is energy that would've been absorbed by the earth anyway. If it's not then it's adding to global warming!
A Chinese ground-based facility for converting solar energy bounced to Earth is scheduled for completion by the end of 2021 and has already conducted energy transfer tests up to 300-meter altitudes, a key project member told state-run media China Science Daily. The project member, Zhong Yuanchang, is a professor at Chongqing …
Tuesday 17th August 2021 08:25 GMT Pascal Monett
By definition that is not the case. The solar satellite will be hundreds of miles above the planet, so it is soaking up energy that has missed us completely.
However, I do believe that it is better to have a solar satellite than a raft of coal-based power stations that spew continuously into the atmosphere.
What I am curious about is how well they are going to control the retransmission of power. I really would like this tech to work, but I'd also rather not be fried walking the dog.
Tuesday 17th August 2021 08:29 GMT Christoph
No. The energy just radiates back into space.
It's like the difference between heating a house and insulating a house. If you heat a house you have to pump in energy all the time - when you stop it cools down. Pumping in energy from Solar Power Satellites doesn't do long term heating.
If you insulate a house it stays warm without any extra energy input. Climate change is driven by CO2 and Methane trapping heat and stopping it radiating to space, not by individual energy inputs.
The power input from the sun is vastly greater than all the power generated by humans, and that is what is trapped and causes climate change. Extra heating from satellite power is far too small to notice.
Tuesday 17th August 2021 09:17 GMT veti
"Too small to notice" is exactly what our forebears used to say about all kinds of pollution when thinking at a planetary level.
Turns out, these things are cumulative.
The sun hits us with about 175,000 TW of power. China currently has something over 2 TW of generating capacity, and there is every likelihood that figure will double within about 30 years. If we assume that the processes of energy transport and conversion at the receiving end are likely to be less than perfectly efficient, then if China went over wholly to this tech, we could be looking at as much as 10-20 TW being added from China alone.
Okay, it beats generating the power from coal and gas. But it's not nothing.
Tuesday 17th August 2021 18:22 GMT DS999
The world produced 14420 Mtoe (million tons of oil equivalent) in 2020 - and that's the amount of energy in what was produced, not what was actually extracted after inefficiencies. At 11.63 TWh per Mtoe that ends up about 19 terawatts continuous - or slightly more than .01% of the total amount of sunlight falling upon the Earth.
If this endeavor was successful on such a grand scale as to replace all other forms of energy production (hard to see how it could be better than solar panels on top of your roof, for instance) we could afford the power to make and orbit mirrors to reflect off enough to compensate for the additional power we were sending down - reducing the solar insolation at the poles or various locations of open ocean far from land where it won't negatively affect human or animal life. We could even go above that to compensate for global warming, and/or power schemes to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
There's zero reason to worry that if something like this was so successful it would make global warming worse. Instead, having so much power at our disposal and a demonstrated ability to build massive orbital structures would practically guarantee we could eventually reverse global warming.
Tuesday 17th August 2021 08:03 GMT Adelio
Although I am ever hopeful after I put my cynical hat on i doubt the UK will do more than "investigate" solar power from orbit. All talk, little action seems to be the UK's mantra.
When you think that Russsian income is not that much different to the UK and we appear to spend almost nothing in these new technologies.....
It would be nice if politians could get of their ar*ses and actually do something. But then after the fiasco of Brexit with this super deal that Bojo failed to negotiate and has been trying to squirm himself out of everr since....
Tuesday 17th August 2021 13:24 GMT Irongut
Not to worry, they'll put Baroness Dildo in charge and she'll spend loadsamoney on a app to tell you when the power satellite is overhead. Of course it won't work but that's because there will be no money left for an actual satellite or a rocket launch to put it into orbit. But at least all Boris' chums will get paid so that's ok then.
More tea vicar?
Tuesday 17th August 2021 08:16 GMT Denarius
So geosynchrous orbit gets more crowded. There will still be multiple 80 minute blackouts a year as the orbiting stations are eclipsed. One wonders if the old concept of a few very large, possibly inhabited geosynchrous stations serving large areas and connecting to each other might make for a less crowded sky, as well as hardware that can be upgraded as technology changes. Add comms to orbiting power stations means single platform, multiuse with no station power issues, mostly.
However, more energy will be sent to Earth. Not a lot compared to total solar budget, but the panic merchants need something to fear
Tuesday 17th August 2021 08:45 GMT BloggsyMaloan
Tuesday 17th August 2021 10:42 GMT Blank Reg
Tuesday 17th August 2021 12:35 GMT BristolBachelor
The plans I've seen have about 1kW/m² on the Earth's surface, similar to what you'd get from the sun anyway. Mispointing just means you lose the power.
The antenas to receive this are very efficient, and only need to be a few dipoles spaced apart. You could have a nice flower meadow growing around them.
Tuesday 17th August 2021 14:26 GMT Blank Reg
Recommended exposure limits for EMF are usually in the low 10's of W/m², so we're looking at as much as 100 times higher here.
Table 6 would apply when the beam is on target, table 5 when it wanders over your neighbourhood.
Wednesday 18th August 2021 21:56 GMT John Brown (no body)
Tuesday 17th August 2021 08:52 GMT WaveyDavey
Tuesday 17th August 2021 09:52 GMT batfink
Tuesday 17th August 2021 12:29 GMT Anonymous Coward
Tuesday 17th August 2021 13:27 GMT Adrian 4
Large solar cells and microwave transmission seems an inefficient way to do it : you've got two conversions and neither is very efficient.
A solar oven seems a better way : many moderately sized reflectors which together focus on a single area. Failure of a few of them tom track would not be dangerous : it would only double the sunlight on the accidental target.
The intentional target could be in the sea, boiling seawater to make steam and simultaneously desalinating while allowing a large safety border.
The large passive reflectors would be slow to re-orientate, making it difficult to use as a weapon.
Tuesday 17th August 2021 13:42 GMT SusiW
Hmm. The thing about radio transmission (microwave, etc) is that Tx antenna/horns produce side lobes of energy out from the side of the main directed 'beam.'
There's a term in microwave (directed energy) weapons development called "Fratricide." This is where those side lobes fry your nearby brothers(and sisters)-in-arms and damage electronic systems.
Careful tuning of the Tx aperture/antenna can reduce this lobing, but never completely remove it.
Just wondering how all that other expensive SpaceTech will deal with the extra interference from these, <cough!> "Totally Peaceful" Power Systems?
Tuesday 17th August 2021 15:28 GMT Elledan
Doesn't add up.
Consider the costs of getting all of that mass up in orbit, with essentially zero way to maintain or repair it, with the conversion losses of going from light to electricity, to microwaves, then back from microwaves to electricity. This is a project that would be hyper-expensive, prone to complete failure and with only a fraction of the ROI of building, say, a nuclear power plant, whether fission or fusion (research or commercial).
It's a nice prestige project for China, but its practical use is roughly zero.
Tuesday 17th August 2021 21:09 GMT DJ
"Solar power collected in space has the advantage of being unaffected by weather or that pesky thing called "night"."
This is not my area of expertise, but it seems to me that for this to work, the gizmo in the sky must be geosynchronous above the receiver gizmo.
If that is the case, won't both objects be in the dark at night?
Mine's the one with telescope that doesn't see as many stars at night as it used to in the pocket.
Wednesday 18th August 2021 21:58 GMT John Brown (no body)