Japan has serious plans to send a solar-panel-equipped satellite into space that could wirelessly beam a gigawatt-strong stream of power down to earth and power nearly 300,000 homes.
The satellite will have a surface area of four square kilometers, and transmit power via microwave to a base station on Earth. Putting solar panels in space bypasses many of the difficulties of installing them on Earth: in orbit, there are no cloudy days, very few zoning laws, and the cold ambient temperature is ideal.
A small test model is scheduled for launch in 2015. To iron out all the kinks and get a fully functional system set up is estimated to take three decades. A major kink, presumably, is coping with the possible dangers when a 1-gigawatt microwave beam aimed at a small spot on Earth misses its target.
The $21 billion project just received major backing from Mitsubishi and designer IHI (in addition to research teams from 14 other countries).
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.