Orbiting solar power stations have been a continuous source of debate for decades – someone always brings up the idea of power plants IN SPACE and it always gets shot down as being unfeasible. (What’s not realistic about having energy beamed down from space? Come on.) But because Star Trek has been part of our collective consciousness for the past 50 years (or maybe it’s just me), someone always goes back to the idea of space lasers providing clean energy.

Same Idea – But Now It Might Work

What makes this current wave of theorizing and testing any different from the last? Perhaps nothing – but there is that project going on at Kyoto University, and they’re not the only ones. A 248-page peer reviewed report put together by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) concluded that it’s possible. Barely.

As time goes on, development continues – we may have the technology today that we didn’t have 40 years ago to make the idea of a giant orbiting platform in space to beam abundant solar energy toward the planet’s surface worth the cost. There is no energy source more reliable than the sun – if that starts going, we’ve got bigger problems than carbon dioxide emissions.

When, How, and How Much?

Space lasers (or microwave transmitters, we’re not picky) wouldn’t provide instantaneous free energy, of course, but the study does speculate that “much” of the global energy requirements could be met with orbiting stations within three decades.

As the IAA concluded:

Overall, the study group found that space solar power is technically feasible, but that economics of solar power satellites can only be determined by means of international end-to-end systems studies, focused technology maturation and systems-level demonstrations. An international roadmap for realizing this goal is presented, which could achieve a major pilot-plant scale demonstration within 10-15 years.

In other words – the technology is there (not much word on how to develop it specifically, although Kyodai may have that covered) or exactly how much it will cost (a lot). The research is there. The ideas are there.

…come on, we’re talking about space lasers. How fricking cool is that??


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