Last night, on French TV, I saw an amazing reportage concerning a revolutionary project aimed at capturing solar energy through panels attached to a geostationary satellite and then transmitting the energy to Earth by means of an infrared laser beam. Today, I've been trying to obtain more detailed information about this project, described as European, but the web doesn't seem to have anything much to offer in this domain. As soon as I started searching for information, I had the impression that the only people on the planet who are pursuing this research are the Japanese. Maybe the European researchers are deliberately keeping a low public profile because of the complexity of the project, and the fact that it's still at a very early stage of development, since it wouldn't become operational before another decade. Or did I simply imagine that it was a European project?
No, it wasn't an illusion. The project is being carried out well and truly by the European company Astrium, the space subsidiary of EADS (the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company). Click the banner to find out a little bit more about this company.
The TV reportage evoked a question that springs into everybody's mind. Would it be catastrophic if the laser beam were to be slightly displaced so that, instead of reaching its correct target on the ground, it hit a house or a school. Would it fry everything in a split second? Apparently not. The fellow being interviewed treated this as a silly question. The future system will be as harmless as a phone connection, in spite of the fact that it's channeling the energy of the Sun.
In any case, even if it's too early to obtain a significant quantity of serious information concerning this project, it's not too early to meditate upon the idea of a potentially unlimited source of perfectly clean energy. Or am I still dreaming?
POST SCRIPTUM: Although it's not directly related to what I've just been talking about, you might like to listen to Bill Gates presenting his thoughts on energy. Personally, I prefer to hear him rambling on in this field rather than evoking his ugly software products...