Behind the Sun: $21 Billion Solar Power Plant in Space

orbiting space station

In news that sounds like it’s straight out of a comic book, 16 Japanese companies have joined a cooperative effort to launch a solar power generator into space within the next 30 years. The 2 trillion yen ($21 billion) 1-gigawatt generator will collect power from the sun and beam it to the Earth via microwaves. 1 gigawatt is enough energy to power roughly 294,000 homes. The research group the Institute of Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer, which represents the 16 companies, will work on the technology for the next four years.


The hurdle for the project at the moment is the prohibitive costs associated with getting the materials into space. However, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is committed to the project. With fossil fuel reserves steadily running out, they realize that an alternative energy form is a necessity – even if it costs a huge amount of money. The Japan Aerospace Exploration agency, along with the trade ministry, will launch a smaller solar panel-equipped satellite in 2015 to test the energy-beaming method.

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See more in Space & Time or under Science. September, 2009.