Lately we've been hearing a lot about alternative ways of generating electricity, and the idea of a solar power-gathering satellite sounds like the best plan yet. Its proponents say an orbital power station placed in a position where it's constantly bathed in unfiltered sunlight could provide enough power to run the whole world seven times over. It would employ kilometer-wide solar panels, beaming the energy down to earth via microwaves.
Because of the rising costs of energy, the idea of launching a huge solar-power satellite has become more practical within the past five years. The proposed 3000-ton behemoth, ten times heavier than the International Space Station, would require 120 launches to lift all its parts into orbit. Researchers estimate that even after overcoming that hurdle, the satellite could still pay for itself in a year after construction is complete.