Solar energy is attractive because of its abundance and negligible impact on the environment, but reliably collecting it in large quantities can be pretty tricky. The most common method of using ground-based, stationary solar collectors only works during the day when the sun is overhead, and even then simple cloud cover can diminish how much energy is ultimately collected. Researchers over at Japan's national space agency, JAXA, are taking the easy route to circumvent these terrestrial concerns — collect solar power from space!
The idea of using satellites to collect solar energy and then beam it in the form of a laser down to a power plant isn't entirely new, but JAXA's method of using a mix of chromium-infused ceramic material to trap sunlight, as well as neodymium to convert solar energy to laser energy, has had outstanding results. It's claimed 42% of the solar energy collected can be converted into laser form. Theoretically, that means nearly half of the amount of solar energy the satellites manage to harvest in space — 24/7, without weather or nighttime to be concerned about — can then be transferred via laser to a ground-based plant.
Using solar collectors a few hundred feet long, researchers estimate that the amount of power generated would rival nuclear power plants. JAXA aims to have solar powered satellites shooting laser power back down at them by 2030.