back to article 8 years ago another billionaire ploughed millions into space to harvest solar power and beam it back down to Earth

Billionaire Donald Bren was behind a quiet $100m donation in 2013 that established Caltech's Space-based Solar Power Project (SSPP) in an attempt to harness solar power from outer space, the California private research university revealed this week. The real estate magnate was inspired by a 2011 article in Popular Science ( …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Yes, yeah.

    Solar power.... Yeah right

    We all know its a death ray, Just admit it.

    1. RobLang

      Re: Yes, yeah.

      I'm expecting a future milestone to read "Moon base".

      1. jonathan keith

        Re: Yes, yeah.

        It's a great pity the moon doesn't have any dormant volcanoes...

    2. jonathan keith

      Re: Yes, yeah.

      Space sharks with frickin' maser beams attached to their heads?

    3. Swarthy

      Re: Yes, yeah.

      wouldn't the "beaming power to earth via RF" almost have to be a MASER?

      The main advantage to collecting in space is that you don't have to worry about atmospheric attenuation. "Beaming" the power to ground stations will have to go through atmosphere, so you need an intensity/frequency that renders that attenuation significantly less significant, so MASER.

  2. codejunky Silver badge


    Didnt the reg put something up about this a few years ago. Sounds very familiar. Could be a good idea

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm

      Good idea?

      As a death ray perhaps.... gee look at our solar powered death ray.....zap.

      But the core claim "works at night" won't work if it beams down to the daylight portion of the earth. Unless your collection and distribution points moves too, to stay under your death ray, so you're receving staion is always under your solar array on the daylight side of the planet!

      Or suppose you have multiple receiving stations. Can you imagine, they turn it from Station 1 to Station 2, and since the transmitter and solar array are integrated, one and the same, you cannot turn it off, so you zap everything the path between the two stations?

      But death ray! Totally makes sense.

      1. tojb

        Re: Hmm

        Geostationary is pretty far out, so it can be nighttime on the ground without the satellite being in shadow. For most of the year, equatorial tilt should take the satellite out of shadow 24h/day. The longest time to spend in shadow is only 72 minutes/day, at the equinoxes.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmm

          Put it that far out and you've got the transmission loss. None of this makes sense except as a death ray.

          It's not even worth making solar panels track the sun for most domestic setups, here on earth, its so damn cheap to just mount more panels.

          If they actually want to do anything for solar, I would suggest pricing storage... like you can sell back electricity to the grid, price storage, so you can sell storage capacity to the grid. So people stick more solar on their roof, and sell the excess to the grid, and others store it for them.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            if you do the math and factor in time of day/latitude, you may find that your terrestrial solar runs into "certain issues" regarding total energy production vs consumption

            Just because you can slightly outmatch carbon sourced electricity generation with wind/solar doesn't change the factor that electricity production only accounts for 1/3 of carbon emissions and decarbonising the rest will need an increase in generation capacity (TWh/year) of between 4-6 times over existing carbon-emitting electricity generation

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Hmm

              On the other hand, many houses are empty during the day when solar energy collection is at it's highest. Unless you have your own local storage, it's being "wasted" if you don't or can't feed it into the grid either for use elsewhere or storage for later.

          2. rcxb1

            Re: Hmm

            <blockquote>Put it that far out and you've got the transmission loss.</blockquote>

            It already has to go through the entire Earth's atmosphere. Any extra distance is through empty space, which does not impose transmission losses... UNLESS you're assuming the designers are complete idiots and will use omnidirectional antennas.

            <blockquote>None of this makes sense except as a death ray.</blockquote>

            When death rays are outlawed, only outlaws will have death rays.

            Death Rays also happens to be my favourite Italian restaurant... Just don't eat the chicken, no matter what Ray tells you.

  3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    This is old tech, Asimov was describing it in 1941.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      If only that had been mentioned in the article, eh?

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        I must be getting old, I'd've sworn that paragraph wasn't there earlier - which is why I posted.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > Asimov was describing it in 1941.

      A lavish colour illustration depicting the receiving station of such a scheme was used as an advertisement for a company near me who are famous for their marine diesel engines. The advert was in, iirc, the brochure for the Festival of Britain 1951.

      The copy was along if the lines of "In the future we may have energy beamed down from space. Until that time, you can rely upon the proven power of Lister diesel engines"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Lister diesel

        And 70 years into the future we have no power beamed down from space, but plenty of old listers chugging on forever (or until the loonies and greenies ban them).

        All hail the mighty SL2 and its brethern.. !

      2. UCAP Silver badge

        ... proven power of Lister diesel engines

        Bet Kryten has something to say about that.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          ...muttering something about cleaning up and fumigating after another of Mister Listers breakfast curry specials, eh?

    3. maffski

      Asimov described so many things you'd think he was making them up.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        "Reason" isn't particularly a story about microwave power from space. It is a story about robots that are exhibiting unplanned behaviour and can't be corrected.

        Wikipedia: "The situation seems desperate, as a solar storm is expected, potentially deflecting the energy beam, incinerating populated areas."

        Ah. :-)

        Enh, Russian plans to extend daylight and summer by just putting big mirrors in space to deliver sunlight at night, had the same feature... if you aimed several of the mirrors at a single place on the ground.

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      Describing something

      And actually building it are very different things. So no, this isn't "old tech". It is an old idea.

  4. Roger Kynaston

    Wasn't this in one of the Brosnan Bond films?

    It might be cool if it really can be made to work though. There would have to be oversight about noting it into a death ray. Joking aside - I wonder how much would be lost in the microwave beam till it reaches the earth. I know next to nothing about any of this so it is pure speculation.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Wasn't this in one of the Brosnan Bond films?

      I think there will be three factors at play here; beam divergence, atmospheric attenuation, and collector efficiency.

      If the beam divergence is kept low, and the collectors are wide enough to "catch" the whole beam, it’s not a problem. At the other end of the scale, if the transmission is omnidirectional, then the power drops off with the square of the distance.

      Atmospheric attenuation depends on the wavelength used, the thickness of the atmosphere it will have to travel through (which will depend on the angle; directly above would be the lowest attenuation, and on the horizon the highest), and the weather - water vapour absorbs microwaves, to varying degrees, again depending on the wavelength, which is how a microwave oven works.

      Collector efficiency is basically a measure of how much energy is captured by the receiver, which is effectively acting like an aerial. A quick google of the subject suggests that we can expect this to be better than 90%

      So, judicious choice of wavelength, to avoid any major atmospheric absorption, and a well focused beam means it woudl hopefully be up to 90% transmission efficiency, which will be well above the actual efficiency of the solar panels themselves.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Wasn't this in one of the Brosnan Bond films?

        That judicious choice of wavelength probably matches one of the bands currently used by astronomers since low atmospheric absorption is pretty much the most important thing in both use cases. They will be delighted to hear that someone now wants to inject several GW of interference in that band.

        I wonder how big the sidebands will be? Could this be the death of (terrestrial) WiFi as well?

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Wasn't this in one of the Brosnan Bond films?

          On the subject of space and terrestrial radio interference...

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      "Die Another Day"

      Or was that the name of Halle Berry's character - Diane Otherday.

      I'm slightly remembering and swiping from something like a BBC radio "write your own James Bond plot" spot in which Tamara Neverdies showed up too.

      "The Man with the Golden Gun" film has something similar, but I think it's the type of arrangement where a lot of sunlight is reflected onto a small, expensive electricity generating solar cell. But the power station also has its own solar ray gun... somehow.

  5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Tax fiddle

    Harness the solar power to avoid paying tax.

    Is it the true reason for such project?

    1. teknopaul

      Re: Tax fiddle

      You can tax anything (except salt and polls)

      Solar power is taxed in Spain.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Tax fiddle

        What I had in mind was tax avoidance schemes like movie investments that generated artificial losses to gain tax relief.

        There is plenty of room for that in a project like this, there is so many things that can go wrong and cause a loss without actually causing it if you know what I mean ;)

  6. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Don't tell Marjorie Taylor Greene!

    She's already accused Jewish millionaires of funding space lasers beaming the suns energy from space to start Californian wild fires.. what will she think when she hears a Jewish millionaire is funding something this space-sun-energy project?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Don't tell Marjorie Taylor Greene!

      That moron. Doesn't she understand that all she has to do to stop the Jews from setting light to California is to go and rake the forests?

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Don't tell Marjorie Taylor Greene!

        Well, it's obvious to *us* !!!

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Don't tell Marjorie Taylor Greene!

          I'd let her know on a postcard if I could find a green crayon.

  7. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    To quote Ernestine (Lily Tomlin)

    "Oops. Just lost Peoria!"

    Beam control is important.

  8. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Bzzzzzzz - phut!

    > Collecting solar power in space and transmitting the energy wirelessly to Earth through microwaves

    And if they do it right wrong they will zap all the nacent constellations of thousands and thousands of internet satellites that the likes of Musk, etc. are spending $$$ billions on launcing.

    1. Dagg Silver badge

      Re: Bzzzzzzz - phut!

      Zap satellites! what about things like aircraft, birds animals etc.

      1. the hatter

        Re: Bzzzzzzz - phut!

        Aircraft ? If amateur pilots won't read their NOTAMs, that's on them.

  9. bronskimac

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Little Mouse

      Global devastation & a return to primitive feudalistic society. The rebooted Eagle comic covered this in "The Tower King" in the 80's.

      Where's Mick Tempest when you need him?

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    There is no hope

    Clearly they don't think the earth is overheating fast enough and want to accelerate the process.

  11. ITS Retired

    90% efficiency? That would take a concentrated beam. What happens when, not if, something get too close? Birds? A curious hang Glider, A wayward plane?

    Would it burn a hole through the clouds during storms? All satellite signals walk around a bit. How big would the dead zone around the receiver be? What of maintenance of the ground receiver? Can the transmitter be shutdown and powered up without too much hassle? What about making sure it stays off during ground maintenance? Where does the padlock go to ensure that some middle manglement dude doesn't power it up when people are on the ground working around the receiver?

    One never hears the answers to questions like these. Like the carbon fiber space elevator, this sounds too much like pie in the sky.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      What happens when, not if, something get too close? Birds? A curious hang Glider, A wayward plane?

      They'll only make that mistake once.

  12. Pen-y-gors

    Cool idea, but...

    It's overly complicated.

    Option A) Roll out lots of low cost panels in deserts around the world. Dirt cheap to install. Easy to reach for maintenance. Cost of the panels approx $200/kW

    Option B) put some expensive panels in orbit. SpaceX are currently charging about $1 million to launch 200kg. More for higher orbits. That's 200 sq m of panels, max power (solar constant x efficiency) a generous 400W/sq m, admittedly 24/7. Panel costs? They're going to be several times the cost of ground-based ones.

    So cost for 1MW on ground about $200,000

    Cost for 1MW in orbit - $12,500,000 in launch costs plus panel costs (another $1mn?). Yes, costs will fall, but a hundred-fold?

    Generating 24/7 compared to maybe 10/7 doesn't offset that massive launch costs and extra infrastructure costs.

    1. elkster88
      IT Angle

      Re: Cool idea, but...

      Agree, solar panels in space to provide power on earth is a definite R. Goldberg solution. Technically possible, but at a huge cost. Maybe if that space elevator gets built... naw.

      The obvious solution to reliable, reasonably priced solar power is to add energy storage, and/or use solar energy to create "green" fuels for vehicles, neatly meshing the intermittent nature of solar with the energy density/power/recharge time problems of current BEV technology. Could even be batteries, but doesn't need to be the expensive Li-Ion type since weight and bulk are not as important for a fixed installation.

      Sure, there are increases in cost if you add storage. But it's GOT to be cheaper than lifting solar panels into geosynchronous orbit, PLUS needing the collector/converter equipment on the ground.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Cool idea, but...

      A lot of deserts are not so easy to reach, and solar panels in deserts tend to get covered in dust, worn down by sandblasting, or buried quickly under shifting dunes. Temperatures also vary wildly from above 40°C during the day to below zero at night.

      The big advantage of putting solar panels in space is that pretty much the only things you have to deal with are micrometeorites, and if you make them modular, you can probably easily cope with the odd module getting holed every now and then, and deal with the small loss of coverage that may result. The temperature of space is a constant, of a few Kelvin left over from the big bang, and the only source of heat is radiation from the sun, which you will be pointing at 24/7, so the panels will quickly reach thermal equilibrium. As another poster pointed out, things in geostationary orbit only get shade for at most 72 minutes at a time, so that's the only regular thermal stress they will be experiencing.

      Compare that to having to regularly drive out into the middle of a desert in heat that will quickly kill you, to un-bury an array of panels to replace a load that have been blasted to shards by the wind, or failed from metal fatigue because the mountings are getting a daily 50°C temperature shift.

      1. Dagg Silver badge

        Re: Cool idea, but...

        So where are you going to put the very large antenna arrays needed to collect the beamed power? Farm land would not be a good idea with the crop and flock damage. Cooked cow anyone...

        1. adam 40 Silver badge

          Re: Cool idea, but...

          Offshore wind farms, which already have the power cables.

    3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Cool idea, but...

      Option A) Roll out lots of low cost panels in deserts around the world. Dirt cheap to install.

      Cheap to install the panels. Expensive to install a government that's going to prevent the power supply being held to ransom for political ends or being knocked out by jihadis.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Cool idea, but...

        How dare they hide our oilsunlight underneathon their sand!

    4. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: Cool idea, but...

      One very real possible application is to use the tech to send power to... satellites.

      Then when you launch your Shiny New Thing (hah!) it could omit the panels (and the machinery to deploy then), making more volume and mass available for payload.

      A possible hybrid might be a system where the recipient spacecraft has enough on-board collection equipment to run it's own payload, but not enough to run a electrostatic engine. So when the craft needs to adjust its orbit, it "latches" on to the donor solar collector, moves around a bit, and returns to normal...

      This all assumes that the collection equipment for this scheme is smaller/lighter than the conventional solar panels, but as I understand it, that's likely: you'd have a vast solar panel array in GEO, sending power to smaller craft in LEO.

    5. a pressbutton

      Re: Cool idea, but...

      "It is really expenstive to put stuff into orbit"


      So dont. Make it up there.

      1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

        Re: Cool idea, but...

        did you miss the Joke Alert icon on your post? Or do you live somewhere where it's turtles all the way up?

      2. the hatter

        Re: Cool idea, but...

        From what ? Are you thinking that bootstrapping refinery and semiconductor manufacturing facilities in space will be cheap, or even feasible at any scale in any worthwhile timeframe, once you identify the asteroids you want to mine ?

  13. EvilGardenGnome

    Quick maths

    Based on the linked article, some maths:

    * 220 billion kilowatts (global energy need by 2030) = 220000 gigawatts

    * 1 satellite yields 1 gigawatt

    * assume 1 satellite : 1 receiver therefore 220000 receivers

    * transmission beam is 60 feet wide, so we'll assume that's a diameter on a cylindrical beam

    Based on this, we can assume that meeting the 220000 gigawatt power needs will require 220000 receivers, each covering 2827.4 sq ft (262.68 sq m). That's a combined area of about 14279.8 arces (57789.6 sq km). That's ever so slightly more than the area of Croatia.

    That's a lot of government expropriation and materials investment.

    1. sitta_europea Silver badge

      Re: Quick maths

      * 1 satellite yields 1 gigawatt

      * ...

      * transmission beam is 60 feet wide, so we'll assume that's a diameter on a cylindrical beam

      If I've got the sums right that's about 350kW per square foot.

      I don't think that's going to fly.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Quick maths

      each covering 2827.4 sq ft (262.68 sq m).

      To put that into a more readily visualisable context, that's about a 30th of the size of a football pitch.

      Hey, I've got this great idea...

    3. adam 40 Silver badge

      Put it in the sea

      We have lots of sea and it shields the stuff underneath from the radiation.

  14. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

    Just put a giant mirror up in orbit, and solve the night-time problem instead!

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      You jest, I think, but putting the cheap bit in orbit and keeping the expensive stuff down here is probably a more practical solution, and the visible waveband is one of the ones that the atmosphere passes.

      As an added bonus, we can see the beam, which might encourage people to get the pointing accuracy right before they start chucking a few GW down it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You jest, I think, but putting the cheap bit in orbit and keeping the expensive stuff down here is probably a more practical solution, and the visible waveband is one of the ones that the atmosphere passes."

        I don't know about that. After all, isn't there a reason the sky is tinted blue?

      2. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

        It was a semi-jest. My thinking was, if we stop it being night time in a place, then all those light bulbs can be turned off, and we’ll probably save more in energy than we would make by putting solar panels in orbit, then somehow getting that energy out of orbit.

  15. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Tall poppy syndrome

    Ah, I love all the instant replies of why it won't work and should never be considered.

    Warms my heart, it does.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Tall poppy syndrome

      Ah, I love all the instant replies of why it won't work and should never be considered.

      OK, so tell us how tall poppies can generate power then.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Tall poppy syndrome

      Those instant replies are backed by established science and easy-to-follow calculations. If you take that as proof that you are on the right lines then you are a classic (and probably irredeemable) conspiracy theorist.

    3. Brian Miller

      Re: Tall poppy syndrome

      There is a big difference between "good economical idea" and "infeasible project."

      Beaming power down from space would have to be economical in comparison to building effective power plants on dirt. And honestly, a power plant Earth-side is still necessary, because the RF will still need to be converted to something the electrical grid can handle.

      The conversion loss is significant. First, the solar energy must be converted to electrical energy, which is then used to power the RF transmitter. Then there is the transmission loss between space and ground. Then there is the conversion loss in the power plant. And of course, that power plant in space is going to need servicing.

      So which is more economical? Taxing the shit out of excessive power usage to drive people to save power, (change your light bulbs, buy machines that can't run Crysis or mine Bitcoin), or tossing up power plants in spaaaaaaaaaace?

    4. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Tall poppy syndrome

      Indeed, and you can bet that the back-of-the-envelope calculations performed by assorted commentards are definitely more thorough than eight years of highly-funded research.

      1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: Tall poppy syndrome

        Yeah, but its highly-funded research at CalTech[1]. I mean, what do they know? Yeah, sure, they're a fine organization for movie directors [2], but Einstein only taught there for three terms [3]...

        Of course, they do run the oddly named "Jet Propulsion Laboratory", which seems to spend a lot of time playing with robotic non-jet-propelled vehicles[4], so I can't see what possible relevance space power could have for them....


        Seriously, while it's a bit of a running joke that a university will research anything as long as you pay them to do so, CalTech can afford to be picky, and if they see something interesting in the field, the safe bet is that they aren't just indulging in a vanity project...

        [1] Which is definitely not MIT

        [2] Frank Capra

        [3] 1931-1933

        [4] On Mars

    5. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Tall poppy syndrome

      > Warms my heart, it does.

      Not as much as being hit by a stray beam would.

  16. Mage Silver badge

    No cylindrical beam

    It's stupid and expensive compared to desert power generation. Big mirrors and steam might even beat photovoltalic.

    Then make synthetic LPG with waste carbon.

    Um, plot of Sahara?

    The beam is a real issue. At best it's a cone with a huge spot on the ground. To avoid a massive dish in space you need maybe 100 Ghz to 400 GHz. Atmospheric adsorption is a problem. It's not scaleable to any sensibly small beam or big power. The power loss in generation of the microwaves is significant. A solar plant on the ground and big optical mirror in space is more sensible than this. This something for an SF story or a game like Sim City.

    SF stories are NOT blueprints for future technology. Ursula Le Guin said they are entertainment, though some can have social comment or a warning.

  17. Red Ted

    Giant Pyrography

    I remember using an electron microscope and if you turned the beam current up you could write your name across the sample....

    Sounds like this could allow you to write "Coca Cola" in 100 mile high letters across the surface of the planet!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Giant Pyrography

      "Sounds like this could allow you to write "Coca Cola" in 100 mile high letters across the surface of the planet!"

      That solves the problem of financing the large capital costs, just do corporate sponsorships!

    2. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

      Re: Giant Pyrography

      And we're back in Asimov territory again.

      "Buy Jupiter"

  18. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "...transferring the energy wirelessly using RF"

    If we're dealing wit any useful range of power transfer, just don't stand in the beam. Oh, and courtesy of Mage: "Atmospheric adsorption is a problem" - how to contribute to global warming.

  19. Spoobistle

    Space Mines

    Why bother bringing the power down to earth at all - just use it to mine cryptocurrency up

    there and claim it as a carbon offset for all those rigs you didn't feed with coal-based


    1. tfewster

      Re: Space Mines

      Maybe that's been Elon Musk's real plan all along - Power management + space launchers + cryptocurrencies. Maybe he's behind the shortage in semiconductors too!

  20. First Light

    Sigh . . .

    I would rather that scientists and engineers got funding for *their* projects rather than taking funding to carry out billionaires' pet projects perhap mostly because the money is made available.

    I read a great article about Katalin Kariko, the scientist who created the mRNA vaccine delivery system - she struggled for years in obscurity and without grant funding. Yet her work has been revolutionary.

  21. Danny 2

    Simpsons did it!

    The first contemporary description of the structure was by Olaf Stapledon in his science fiction novel Star Maker (1937), in which he described "every solar system... surrounded by a gauze of light-traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use".

    Dyson Sphere

  22. SBU

    Daft idea

    This makes the global warming problem worse not better. Your increasing the surface area of collected sunlight. Every watt beamed from space now has to return to space via atmospheric convection and radiative loss. If we are already getting too warn effectively increasing the sunlight the planet absorbs will not correct that.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Daft idea

      Every watt

      No, not for energy which is used to form chemical bonds for compounds (and/or subsequent metabolites) which do not ultimately break down into greenhouse gases.

  23. ianp5

    It's getting warmer!

    There's a major problem with this if I've understood it correctly.

    Aren't we all worried about climate change and now someone wants to have more of the Sun's energy directed to earth? Here comes Venus 2?

  24. briesmith

    Iceland - not the shops

    Volcanic heat and hydro in vast quantities and all pretty much free once the plant costs have been written down should mean that Iceland - and similar regions/countries around the world - could become significant hydrogen gas producers similar to the methane gas producing counties in the world we already depend on for much of our imported energy.

    We already have the ships and we know how to build the terminals, perhaps we could persuade some billionaire that this makes more sense than sending up 1,000s of microwave ovens into space?

    All we have to do then is convert 43 million gas boilers to run on hydrogen and find a way of keeping the pesky stuff confined within our existing gas networks.

    1. Col_Panek

      Re: Iceland - not the shops

      Take CO2 out of the air, combine the C with the H and make methane, pipe that around.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Iceland - not the shops

        That first bit is the hard part. Otherwise, we'd already be making synthetic fuel with it. Ask the US Navy, who are trying to develop this tech for their aircraft carriers.

  25. Sanguma


    described in in his books and lectures as a driving force for space colonization - set up space colonies to manufacture, administer and maintain solar power satellites beaming power to earth. Though he suggested microwaves with huge receiver stations on farmland, and the like.

  26. RLWatkins

    This is a stupid, stupid, stupid idea.

    I know it's been said here already, but I'll say it again.

    The people who are pushing this are doing so because it sounds so nifty. But given the cost of getting a big solar array into orbit, and going up there to do maintenance, repair or expansion on it, it is far cheaper just to put the damn' thing on the ground, where people actually need the power, and where the storage for nighttime or peak-load demand can be sited.

    I cannot believe that people are even still discussing this boondoggle.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is a stupid, stupid, stupid idea.

      The flipside being it can stay in the sun 24/7, the solar collection doesn't suffer from atmospheric attenuation, and it doesn't have to fight the weather (meaning less wear and tear). As for getting the energy back down, it can be focused into wavelengths that minimize attenuation and can penetrate cloud vover.

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