Global environmental challenges
Slow-moving Morakot stormed into Taiwan’s typhoon hall of infamy this past week, rescue teams complained, largely because clouds hovered in the hardest hit areas even after the killer storm had passed.
The clouds blocked any aerial views of mountain villages in southern Taiwan where hundreds of people are presumed dead from landslides.
Disaster officials on this western Pacific island, a veteran of raging late summer typhoons, couldn’t even confirm the biggest landslide, which buried a village that was home to more than 1,000 people, until a day after it had happened.
But Taiwan’s National Space Organization aims to change that in five to six years by designing a radiometer that could be launched into space on one of its heavier satellites, Formosat-2 or Formosat-5. Positioned around 800 km (500 miles) above earth, the radiometer would check water levels, potentially showing whether a river had suddenly changed course, said Nick Yen, a space organisation programme director.
California utility PG&E and solar power company Solaren say they have inked a first-of-its-kind deal to produce renewable solar power from space satellites beginning in the year 2016.
PG&E, one of the largest electric utilities in the United Sates, says on its in-house blog, Next100, that it is seeking approval from state regulators for a power purchase agreement with Solaren, which it says can provide 200 megawatts of clean, renewable energy — enough to power some 140,000 California homes — over a 15 year period.