Solar from space
I am very lucky to have two places with rooves I can stay under. One, my family home, has 10 400w panels hooked up to a battery, inverter & a hot water diverter. Another is a holiday home, on the southern coast of Ireland atop a cliff in a holiday home adorned golf resort. That also has 10 panels on the roof.
The reason I wanted to go all-in on solar is that I felt it was the right thing to do. My home's solar array was installed about 3 years ago, and given the rapid increase in costs for energy, they've probably already paid back their initial investment. The holiday home just got it's panels this past month, but I suspect the energy saving will be enormous.
Even in an Irish winter, we tend to have short, but bright days. Yes, we're famed for wind and rain. But we actually tend to have long, bright days between Paddy's day (April) and Halloween (October).
I have a long-standing opinion that if you are in a council house, elderly or below a threshold for household income, the government should invest in these for you. The panels take the pressure off the energy bills, and in some version of normalcy in energy pricing, potentially take a small house with small demand almost entirely off the grid. Similarly, delivering hot water to an older person all day is a huge win.
The problem with solar panels is they can be seen as a panacea to all household utility issues. The sun isn't shining on the panels exactly at the same time as your house has high demand. The demand in a house is quite variable, as is the sun when competing with cloud cover, temperature change, and a myriad of other conditions necessary for peak performance.
But what if the pesky sun wasn't as much of an issue? What if we could direct UV at our will to better harness solar energy? Thus creating a more ubiquitous, sustainable and predictable model for energy demand satisfaction. Sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it's coming.
The US government's energy department even has a handy, well-illustrated page to demonstrate this. Because for the US, removing energy power from their competitors & enemies is a priority. And the US can win any space race above-and-beyond any other country right now. It is low hanging fruit for them, and the West broadly.
Solar panel equipped, energy transmitting satellites collect high intensity, uninterrupted solar radiation by using giant mirrors to reflect huge amounts of solar rays onto smaller solar collectors. This radiation is then wirelessly beamed to Earth in a safe and controlled way as either a microwave or laser beam.
Using this to harness the sun's power using solar panels to receive energy in space is massively tempting. Storage still becomes an issue (i.e. batteries and lithium demand). But at the scale that the West would demand, this is a worthy trade-off. It also would make creation of solar arrays on homes cheaper as there's much more production of them globally, making the unit economics more favourable for governments to give them away for free to the folks I mentioned before.
The adoption curve of solar technology is explosive right now. Leaning into an adopted technology (even in the face of potentially better tech) with low technical debt and easy frameworks for actually making it work at scale is a good idea. Harvesting more power, quicker, and more efficiently (i.e. without clouds) is also good. Removing our dependence on fossils is god-tier smart. And if the reason to go after the prize is simply to humiliate the enemy of the US military, so be it. The greater good is, indeed, greater.