http://blogs.wsj.com/informedreader/2007/11/21/a-second-look-at-solar-energy-from-space/ says the followin:
A Second Look at Solar Energy From Space
Rising energy prices and environmental concerns have revived interest in an energy project often contemplated and often dismissed since the 1960s: placing gigantic solar panels into orbit. The idea’s continued appeal, explain Dan Cho and David Cohen in the New Scientist, lies in how much more of the sun’s energy can be captured from space than from earth (subscription required). Without clouds, nights or the atmosphere, a solar panel in space could generate 20 times as much electricity as it could on average at ground level. The electricity could then be transported back to Earth by beaming it in microwaves to receiving stations equipped with special antennas.
NASA canceled a project looking into a space solar panel in 2001. But, following technological advances that could reduce the costs of the project, there are some signs of renewed interest, including a large conference in May on the topic at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Pentagon has also expressed interest in developing the concept on a small scale, as a way to provide energy to its remote military bases.
The most research into the technical problems has been conducted in Japan, which depends on foreign sources for most of its energy, has few natural resources, and is keen to cut carbon-dioxide emissions. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, and Japan’s Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry are funding a $12 million space-solar-panel project. Even factoring in the energy used for construction, Masahiro Mori, a director at JAXA, estimates a space-based solar power station would create six times the energy of an earth-based one. — Robin Moroney
Hopefully Robin Moroney will write a follow up article width details on the $12 Million METI project.