The Arabian Desert, once one of the most lifeless places on Earth, no longer matches that description: Come 2050, it is home to the world’s first "electric" town. That means all of its infrastructure is powered solely by electrical energy. Driverless electric cars roam the streets of the small town, and all buildings are equipped with automatic climate and lighting control systems, both inside and out. The project was made possible by new technology for harvesting solar energy directly from outer space.
It works as follows: A huge power station equipped with solar batteries is fired into near-Earth orbit. At that altitude, atmosphere and day cycles are no longer in play, which means constant sunlight. The harvested solar energy is transferred from the station to the Earth's surface by a microwave beam transmitted by giant antennas. The microwave beam is aimed at a receiving antenna approximately 5 km (about 3 miles) in diameter, roughly the area of 2,750 soccer fields.
The hefty price tag of putting the station in orbit and post-launch maintenance required every country on the Arabian Peninsula to chip in. In doing so, they demonstrated that such towns can exist without oil and other nonrenewables. Locals are employed mainly in servicing the power station, adjusting its orbit and the direction of the Earth-bound beam.