Sunshine power out of my ass

Sunshine power out of my ass

Summary: Two good things to refresh the palate of those who may be a little jaded by big politics, scams and fud in the world of energy. One's very big, one's very personal: both together show that if you give people the chance, they can make their own futures.

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TOPICS: Emerging Tech
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Two good things to refresh the palate of those who may be a little jaded by big politics, scams and fud in the world of energy. One's very big, one's very personal: both together show that if you give people the chance, they can make their own futures.

The first is the big one - orbiting solar power. This idea has been kicking around for as long as I remember, but never quite makes it. If you make a big power generating satellite and stick it in orbit, you have some huge advantages: no clouds, no permanent ground-based system changing the environment (I know that rockets are bad), and you can beam the power to anywhere within sight of the satellite without needing cables.

There are also huge disadvantages: the environmental impact of launching the bleeder, the degradation of solar panels in space, and most importantly the difficulties of efficiently and safely beaming useful amounts of energy back to earth. But these are engineering issues and thus amenable to bright ideas, of which there are plenty (I like rectennas).

Quite how many ideas there were wasn't clear - until the National Security Space Office (NSSO) in the US decided to create a public forum to get together as many people as wanted to contribute, with a private forum for accredited experts to run alongside. This could have flopped in two ways: nobody would bother, or the place would turn into a full-on crankfest. Instead, it blossomed - nearly two hundred people with worthwhile experience or ideas joined in, and the question is now - what next?

And the little thing? As simple as putting a solar panel on a donkey-drawn cart. Suddenly you can move people and goods in the old-fashioned way, but bring your mobile phone/Internet connectivity along for the ride. I can see this turning into a wonderful combination of travelling library/medical resource/commerce hub, bringing hands, goods and the world's expertise to villages across the developing world. It's just crying out for a short story - a day in the life of Makhosi the solar donkey, quietly eying up a tasty thorn bush while overhead the satellites are turning on.

Gotta write about routers, though. Makhosi will have to wait.

Topic: Emerging Tech

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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