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"Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today -- but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."
- Isaac Asimov

Near-Space Solar Energy Collectors  
  Generating power from solar radiation closer to the source.  

This is a very early reference to this idea, the first that I know about.

The Symbiotics... armed with their highly developed physical sciences and with sub-atomic power, they were able to construct, out in space, artificial planets for permanent habitation... The planet's external surface, which was wholly transparent, encased the atmosphere. Immediately beneath it hung the photosynthesis stations and the machinery for generating power from solar radiation. Part of this outer shell was occupied by astronomical observatories, machinery for controlling the planet's orbit, and great 'docks' for interplanetary liners.
From Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon.
Published by Methuen in 1937
Additional resources -

Read more about the artificial planets envisioned by Stapledon.

Compare to the power planet from Power Planet (1931) by Murray Leinster, the solar energy beam from Masquerade (1941) by Clifford Simak, the solar station from Isaac Asmov's 1941 story Reason and the solar beam from The Long Way (1944) by George O. Smith.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Star Maker
  More Ideas and Technology by Olaf Stapledon
  Tech news articles related to Star Maker
  Tech news articles related to works by Olaf Stapledon

Near-Space Solar Energy Collectors-related news articles:
  - Space-Based Solar Power May Yet Happen
  - Navy's Orbiting Solar Panels To Beam Energy Down To Earth
  - PRAM Solar Powered Satellite Hardware Tested In Orbit

Articles related to Space Tech
Spaceships Should Last So Long
Space Station Shutters
MIT Proposes Space Bubbles To Combat Climate Change, Misses The Point Of Space Bubbles
Study Reveals Effect Of Space Travel On The Brain

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