The National Space Society and the International Academy of Astronautics held a press conference at the National Press Club yesterday to announce stunning advances in the systems design of Space Based Solar Power satellites.
John Mankins has been working on a modular solar power station architecture for a number of years. Instead of a big, all up construction project, there are mass produced small modules that begin paying for themselves almost immediately.
His concept could be flying in 10 years. Rather than assume a system has to look like the concept drawings from the 1970′s, he completely rethought it using modern technology. The result is a module that can launch on an existing rocket and immediately make itself useful by delivering power to anywhere on earth it is needed. On its own one module is not going to power a city, but it might power a small remote facility or supply emergency power to a team at a disaster area. As cash-flow or investment capital allows, more identical units can be launched. They may be used separately… or they might be joined up like robotic Lego blocks to form larger and larger structures, generating larger and larger amounts of energy for Earth-Based usage.
Take a look at the IAA report.