A decade ago, people were fighting wars over energy; peak oil was a major concern; and shale gas was a short-term solution to the growing global demand for power. Now it’s all changed. Last night the New Year was counted in, with Times Square ablaze with lights of every colour – courtesy of the energy beamed down from Space Power Station Alpha.
“I’ve got 50,000 LED lights and every watt is free!” tweeted the Times Square Ball, from its perch high above the crowds. For the last decade the Times Square Ball has tweeted live news and photos of the countdown event to millions of followers around the world.
“Because the power plant is in orbit, it can deliver solar power to the ground, even at night,” said John Mankins, the station’s designer. “A single solar power satellite can deliver power to the order of a third of humanity – not all at the same time, of course.” SPS-Alpha provides the planet with an affordable green energy option that doesn’t go offline when it’s cloudy or raining, or after sunset.
“Most aerospace professionals would have told you that solar power satellites were impractical, and that anybody who works on them is nuts,” said Mankins. But SPS-Alpha is a radical departure from traditional engineering. Its key innovation is that it’s an elegant, biomimetic flock of smaller modules; a swarm of solar butterflies that weigh very little and self-assemble in space.
The solar power is beamed down to earth with low frequency radio waves that can penetrate cloud and smog, and don’t affect plants or animals in the vicinity of the diode catch net. So the whole installation is eco and human friendly too.
Now we can burn the lights – all night – and not feel guilty about exhausting our precious resources. It’s not just a new year; it’s a whole new world!