The race for the future of clean energy is on, and no idea is too “out there” for the 21st century. That includes the recent announcement by JAXA, Japan’s national space agency, which has unveiled plans to harvest solar power from space, transmitting the energy via laser or microwaves to receivers on the ground. And they want to do it by 2030.
Visions of massive energy beams from space destroying everything we hold dear aside, the idea has plenty of merit. The geostationary satellites would maintain orbit in the same position in relation to the ground at about 36,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. At this height, the satellite would have access to sunlight for more hours of the day, and wouldn’t be hampered by poor weather conditions on the ground, providing a lot more (and more reliable) clean solar power than comparable ground stations.
The laser or microwaves would be aimd 3 kilometer-wide receiver would convert the power and send it to area homes, though one shudders to think what a beam of pure energy would do should it, you know, miss. Maybe I was raised on too many G.I. Joe cartoons, but there would have to be a lot of failsafes involved before this project could (literally) get off the ground.
JAXA knows this, which is why their 2030 launch goal is both realistic, and optimistic. Who knows what major breakthroughs in solar power or wireless energy transmission might happen between now and then? JAXA seems to think the technology will get there, and harvesting solar power from space seems both science fiction, and totally possible.