A private company in the Chinese city of Chengdu has claimed that it will launch an “artificial moon” – an illumination satellite – in 2020, which will be bright enough to replace street lights, the People’s Daily reported.

Wu Chunfeng, the chairperson of the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co, announced the ambitious project at a mass innovation and entrepreneurship event in Chengdu on October 10. It is not clear whether the project has the government’s backing.

Wu claimed that the “artificial moon” will be eight times brighter than the natural moon. It will be able to light an area with a diameter of 10 to 80 km. The testing of the “artificial moon” began two years ago and is now nearing completion, Wu said. He added that the idea came from a French artist, who imagined hanging a necklace made of mirrors above the earth, to reflect sunlight on the streets of Paris.

In a report on Friday, the China Daily said that the “artificial moon” will work as a mirror. It will orbit 500 km around the Earth, and reflect sunlight back to the planet. There could be three huge “moons” by 2022, Wu claimed in an interview. “By then, the three huge mirrors will divide the 360-degree orbital plane, illuminating an area for 24 hours continuously,” he said. The reflected sunlight can cover an area of 3,600 square km to 6,400 square km, Wu added.

He dismissed concerns that the light from the “artificial moon” could adversely impact the daily routines of animals, or make astronomical observations more difficult. Wu said the light intensity and illumination time of the device can be controlled.

He claimed it would save the city a lot of money. “Using a man-made moon to illuminate an area 50 square km can save 1.2 billion yuan [Rs 1,271 crore] of electric charge,” Wu said. “It can also illuminate blackout areas when natural disasters such as earthquakes happen.”