The Discovery Channel aired Orbital Power Plant on September 12, 2008. (Unfortuntely, I have been unable to find a link to original video. If you know how this show can be viewed online, please let me know.)
Orbital Power Plant was one installment of the eight part Discovery Project Earth series on ambitious geo-engineering projects aimed at solving climate change and sustainable energy problems. John Mankins, a former 25-year career scientist NASA and CalTech’s JPL, teamed up with Discovery Channel scientists and engineers to demonstrate the following technologies which are fundamental to the ultimate success of Space Based Solar Power.
- Increasing the efficiency of PV cells with Fresnel lenses
- Measurements of solar radiation at high altitude using a weather balloon
- Short range wireless power transmission
- Long range wireless power transmission
The long range wireless power transmission was successfully demonstrated between two Hawaiian islands, a distance of approximately 148 kilometers, simulating passing a power-carrying microwave beam through the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere. While a very small amount of power was transmitted and detected, Mankins stated that only budget and FAA restrictions prevented a higher power demonstration.
You can read a complete account by Jeff Foust of The Space Review, titled A Step Forward for Space Solar Power.