Japan is moving forward with a plan to lay down about $21 billion in an orbiting solar power station that will literally beam energy down to the ground 24/7. The orbiting collection grid, which is quite literally measured in multiple acres, sits high enough to never be within the Earth's shadow, thus eliminating many of the problems with ground-based solar energy.
I have mixed feelings. Orbiting solar is fucking cool and was in Sim City, but even in Sim City, it was an inferior alternative to the all-powerful fusion plant. But in Sim City, it was cheaper than fusion, which isn't the case today. In fact, it's the most expensive way to provide energy of anything this side of antimatter.
As such, while I commend the forward thinking objective, and the desire to achieve the unlimited energy promised by something such as this, the $21 billion could be better spent on here-and-now technologies. Newer, more advanced nuclear plants could be safe, low-pollution, and provide tens of gigawatts instead of the solar arrays one. $21 billion could buy nearly 10,000 GE wind turbines, producing a theoretical max of over 30GW which could be spread up and down the coast.
For Japan's cities, it could be put towards an initiative to install solar panels on as many urban roofs as possible. Government subsidies for research into LED lighting, advanced refrigeration, and lower-power electronics could help make serious cuts in energy usage, instead of increased energy production. There are so many areas that could put far-reaching and immediate use to the money that I can't help but see this effort as wasteful.
Why not spend $21 billion on solar power from space? (ScientificAmerican.com)