China has planned to launch its programme of developing a solar power plant in outer space in 2028, two years ahead of the original schedule. Under this project, a satellite will be launched to the low-Earth orbit (LEO), 400 kilometres above Earth, to test a technology that would convert sunlight into electricity and beam it to Earth in form of lasers. If successful, China will beat both the US and UK as the two nations have also proposed the idea of launching a similar power plant to meet their energy needs later in this decade.

China details plan of its solar power plant

China’s plan to develop the solar power plant was detailed in a peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Chinese Space Science and Technology. In the paper, the project developers revealed that the first launch in 2028 will be a demonstration mission wherein a satellite will be used to beam lasers to fixed locations on Earth and even moving satellites. If the trial is a success, the China National Space Administration (CNSA)– China’s space agency– will launch a scaled-up version of the plant into a geosynchronous orbit of 36,000 km in 2030.

According to the project developers, the prototype version of the solar plant would have a power output of 10 kilowatts, whereas the plant launched two years later would produce 10 megawatts for “certain military and civilian users” by 2035. Moreover, Beijing aims to establish a full-fledged plant by 2050 which would produce two gigawatts of electricity.

The race for space-based solar plant

The idea of a space-based solar power plant has intrigued multiple countries as solar panels in outer space receive an uninterrupted supply of sunlight, something which is not possible for plants based on Earth. Countries like the UK and the US are also aiming to harness the power of the sun to meet their energy demands and meet their carbon-neutral target. The UK has even launched the Space Energy Initiative (SEI) proposing the launch of a power plant to space by 2030. NASA also had introduced a similar project but has not begun development on the same.

Earlier this year in January, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos too revealed that it is working on its solar space power plant (SKES) project to provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity in the Earth’s remote areas as well as in-orbit satellites.