Putting together a couple of ideas plucked from a couple of other SF settings, and some RL proposals... Gatecrashing p155 lists 1.5 square meters of solar panels, producing 1 kW of power under Earth-equivalent solar radiation, as having a cost of Trivial, roughly a cost of 50. I'm going to posit that a package of solar panels a hundred times the size, producing 100 kW, will have a cost of 5000, or High. Around Jupiter's orbit, solar radiation is 1/25th as intense as around Earth, so the nominal 100 kW panel will only produce 4 kW. A hive with a protean swarm could produce said 4 kW in roughly 4 hours, which gives us a neat 1 kW per hour production rate. A single hive could produce enough panelling for, say, 60 MW, in about 7 years. I'm also going to propose hives with protean swarms for three or four other gadgets: high-powered lasers capable of using all that solar power; the small glass granules required to form an "aerosol lens" ( https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/Quadrelli_2012_PhI_Orbiti... ); some relatively low-powered lasers which can create optical interference patterns that control the position of those beads, allowing nearby lenses to be reshaped and re-aimed; and whatever cheap-and-dirty method can be harnessed to turn high-powered laser-light into propulsive force, whether that be a simple pile of ablative plastic to an out-and-out lightsail (in order to haul piles of those glass beads and a few low-power lasers around the system). By my calculations, a cloud of glass beads massing around 40 tons will have a radius of around 200 meters, and can focus 60 megawatts of laser-power up to 0.2 AU away. Crank that up to a cloud of 600 tons, with a radius of 750 meters, and the range increases to 3 AU, and even larger clouds with larger ranges are possible... and with appropriate pre-planning and signalling, one cloud can collimate the beam from another, allowing such clouds to be used to direct laser-power across the whole solar system, if they're spread out widely enough. Such power could be used to accelerate laser-sails, or to shove other kinds of rockets around if they've been built to take advantage of it... or, if there is a low-powered laser and a cloud nearby any given target, to direct multiple megawatts of power onto it. (Ie, http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacegunconvent.php#id--Las... .) All of this tech seems to be well within what's possible with EP's tech level. Which means that any individual who can afford about 30,000 credits worth of protean hives and swarms, and who's willing to wait about a decade (or who's willing to invest more in order to speed up production), should be able to dump multiple megawatts of laser power onto any target they can identify, in roughly anywhere in the inner system. Which has both useful civilian applications as well as military ones. Larger organizations, such as major militaries, should be able to assemble the infrastructure to route even larger amounts of laser-power around the system in much shorter times. Which brings up the question: Why is there no sign of any of this being done in EP's Solar System? For example, the Jovian military could invest in many of its ships carrying around, say, 20 tons of the glass-beads and appropriate control-lasers, and enough qubits to request laser-power to be routed to their location with minimal light-speed lag, allowing them to dump immense amounts of destruction on their enemies without having to carry around the incredibly massy multi-megawatt lasers, capacitors, and other such gear. I can make some fumbling guesses that provide better answers than 'the authours didn't think of it' :), like post-Fall nervousness about weaponry on that scale, but I haven't come up with a good idea why /nobody/ would have thrown together even modest-scale versions of this system. Maybe you've got better ideas than I've thought up so far? Or maybe I should try putting together some plot ideas around the construction and use such systems, and the people and politics surrounding them? What do you think?
—Thank you for your time,