Wednesday, April 15, 2009

«Sim City Microwave Power Plant»

For those of us that played Sim City 2000 or 3000, this will sound familiar.

Solaren would generate the power using solar panels in Earth orbit and convert it to radio-frequency transmissions that would be beamed down to a receiving station

- PG&E makes deal for space solar power

Holy crap, that's exactly what the microwave power plants in Sim City do! It's expected to begin beaming down 200 megawatts of power by 2016 (a full 4 years ahead of the 2020 date the power plant becomes available in Sim City!)

Real-life proposed Solar collector / Sim City 3000 Microwave Power Plant
If that one is successful, larger-scale ones could be built that produce up to 4.8 gigawatts. (Remember, took only 1.21 gigawatts to travel through time in the movie Back to the Future.)

I love it when the fictional technology of the future becomes a reality.


  1. Certainly sounds cool, but I am left wondering ...

    "Unlike ground-based solar arrays, space satellites could generate power 24 hours a day ..."

    Which is true, but in low earth orbit they won't be visible from the pickup stations too often, and geosynchronous orbit is much more expensive and undoubtedly requires more power given the distance ... I will be interested to learn more about this, like what it really costs and who is paying the bills.

  2. Ah yes, the Microwave power plants. Those were fun.

    Except when they misfired and caused total destruction... wait, that was funny too :P

  3. @ Looney: They said it would be in a geosynchronous orbit. I know it's more expensive to get to a geosynchronous orbit, but I think once there it's cheaper to maintain the orbit.

    The ISS for example, is in a particular low-earth orbit that makes it cheapest for the Russians to get to it. The orbit was chosen to encourage the Russians to participate. However, the station is skimming the top of the atmosphere, so they have to give it reboosts many times per year.

    @ Trevor: Yes, in Sim City 2000 it could mis-align and cause havoc. However, not in Sim City 3000. And from the sound of it, not in real life, either.

  4. Do y'all think the amount of energy needed to put the system into orbit is more or less than the amount of energy it will potentially generate in a year?

  5. @ Looney: They expect it to generate 800 gigawatt-hours of electricity in the first year, and 1,700 gigawatt-hours for subsequent years.

    I'm not sure how much energy it will take to get up there, but I doubt it's more than it would make in a year.

  6. I get about 0.3 gigawatt-hours to get it up there, if we had a near-100%-efficient method of transport, like a space elevator. Rockets are extremely inefficient, though—but probably not enough to keep it from breaking even the first year.

  7. I think a better question is, how much will they have to charge for the electricity to recoup the cost of making a big, complicated satellite, launching it, and then keeping it maintained?

  8. @ Anonymous: As per the article, Solaren's system would be "competitive both in terms of performance and cost with other sources of baseload power generation."

  9. Best for Simcity Deluxe


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