FAST is a free review of mainstream French press on issues of science and technology. It appears twice weekly.

FAST is published by the Science and Technology Office of the Embassy of France to the United States, and by its CNRS Washington office.


Paris – June 12, 2001 – Issue #264


The University Reunion has been attracting a good deal of international
attention with its wireless power transport (WPT) project, conceived as a
means of electrifying the village of Grand Bassin, which is only accessible
by footpath or helicopter. Lost in the steep interior of Reunion Island,
the village is an ideal test case for transporting electrical power by
microwave. Launched in 1994 by researchers at the University after a WPT
conference in Paris concluded that mastering terrestrial point-to-point
microwave transport would be useful step toward orbital power stations, the
project consists of transmitters located 2300 ft above Grand Bassin, on one
of the surrounding ridges. The beam generated by the transmitters will be
received by a 120-ft antenna in the village below. Project scientists are
aiming at effective transmission of 10 to 12 kilowatts, enough to power
several tourist facilities thus providing a means of livelihood to the
otherwise dying village. A laboratory prototype is being tested and most
technical hurdles have been cleared. Meanwhile the project has identified
three types of obstacles that need likewise to be surmounted if the
technical achievement is to be of any value: meeting the environmental and
esthetic challenge of non-invasively placing a 120 ft antenna in the
village; finding a transmission frequency that does not conflict with
telecommunications; and convincing local populations and health authorities
that microwave does not necessarily spell health hazard. To confront this
last problem, the project has from its inception included a standing public
exhibition and other means of dialogue with the public. As a result, local
and regional governments have lined up behind the project. A pre-industrial
phase has begun, and it is hoped that village facilities will be plugging
in lights and freezers five years from now. (; Le
Monde, May 31, p26, Pierre Bathélémy)

FAST is produced and written by Timothy Carlson.