To fans of science fiction, the idea of having solar power stations in space sending down energy to Earth is far from new.
News is, however, the fact that Japan have drawn up plans for exactly such a power station.
The idea, which is still just an idea, goes as follows:
Take an island, fill it witl billions of tiny rectifying antennas able of converting microwave energy into DC electricity. Run a cable from the island, where no-one is going to want to live, because of the radiation, to the mainland. Now take a handfull (or two) of solar collectors, shoot them into space and have them set up in a geosynchronous orbit and beam down microwaves onto the island from 36 000 km above Earth.
Sounds great, and as long as the whole thing worked according to plan. If the solar collectors missed their target, or someone decided to tinker with the whole setup, things could be very, very different.
Imagine a giant microwave oven, and then stuff the population of Tokyo into it…..
The Germans have set a new record for power produced by harnessing the sun’s rays into electricity. According to the German government, the power produced reached 22 Gigawatts of electricity through the the midday hours of Friday and Saturday.
The 22 Gogawatts equals the output of 20 nuclear power plants. The power produced equalled roughly half of what Germany needed on Saturday and about a third of what was needed on Friday when the country’s factories and offices were full.
The 22 GW is about twice of the record from last year which was 14 GW.
The market for solar power is going through a bit of a crunch lately, with many of the companies that opened less than five years ago, all thinking that solar power was the next big thing, poised on the edge of bankruptcy.
Strangely enough, the market for solar power has been growing over the last five years. Unfortunately, the growth hasn’t been smooth, but marked by start-stop growth that has made it impossible for companies to predict what way the market was going. Coupled with a massive over capacity on the production side – especially in China – has meant that many companies have fallen on hard times.
Another problem has, according to this article from Reuters, been that the world’s energy markets are currently flooded with very cheap natural gas.
One of the latest casualties was the German company Solar Millennium. The fact that several German companies are currently struggling it particularly worrying for the industry, as Germany remains the biggest market for solar power in the World.