An updated proposal from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) seeks to solve the island nation's energy woes — and it's the much vaunted scifi-like idea of building an orbital farm.
Set up large photovoltaic platforms in Earth's orbit and beam the extracted energy down to receiving stations back on land in the form of microwaves that can be converted into electricity.
JAXA has now devised a sophisticated scheme for doing so, and it sounds absolutely mind-blowing. They've devised a road map that describes a series of ground and orbital stations leading to the development in the 2030s of a 1-gigawatt commercial system — which is the same output as a typical nuclear power plant. Prior to this, they'd like to set up a 100-kW SPS version around 2020.
A cool idea, with some extreme issues that are covered in the discussion on the i09 site. The US could never do this - the payoff is too long term. But Japan has demonstrated the ability to plan long-term, which is why they passed us up in the technology department...
My worry would be simple: establishing a no-fly area around the transmission path. I can't imagine transiting such an energetic beam would be good for one's health!
Not unless you were in some kind of Jersey Shore tanning competition!
I can see it now:
SUN POWER TANNING!!!
Home of the Three-Second Tan!
Ed Lindaman, my mentor at Whitworth, proposed small scale solar energy in order to address terrorist attacks against large installations. Every roof a power station, was his motto. That makes sense to me. The sun shines on each building the same and will only be weakened by the failure of the sun to shine or a massive explosion over a metropolis. Both are risks. What other options are there?
Ed died long before terrorism raised its ugly head, but he could foresee challenges facing the modern age of energy.
Ed is also the one who advocated small farms close to consumption and small vegetable and fruit gardens at home sites. This would cut fossil fuel energy use of transport of food to distant places and cut back on the demand for big agribusinesses. He was ahead of his time when he developed "Diet 1985".
Joan, I've read lots of science fiction and like to envision power capture and many other things from large space based installations. However, I think small scale individual installations sound cheaper and more practical, at least in the short term.