The last trust metric I posted about can be improved significantly both in terms of run time and behavior by switching from number of certs in to number of nodes certed.
Make each position be a float, rather than an int. At each round, lower each node by one unit for each spam it sent out. Then, for each node which is below one which certed it, raise it by ten units and lower lower each of the ones which certed it and are above it by ten units divided by the number of them.
I think further dramatic run time reductions are possible.
Lightning Thermal Energy
The transfer of energy to the outside of a lightning thermal plant doesn't have to be done with anything as fancy as microwaves. A simple pair of tubes, one with air going out, the other with air going in, leaves the energy in completely mechanical form and transfers at high efficiency without acting as a conductor.
ncm: The largest solar plants are actually solar thermal instead of using photovoltaics. This would seem to indicate that solar thermal is just plain cheaper. As for doing anything with lightning, lightning doesn't follow the normal rules you're taught about in electronics class. Any change which can jump through the atmosphere isn't going to much care about a few piddly feet of vacuum trying to act as an insulator. Attempts to change batteries with lightning have gotten a few people blown up, and attempts to charge capacitors with them have mostly resulted in burnt electronics. With regards to your specific idea, if you acatually got the electronics to work (doubtful) it would probably result in the object you were trying to lift being turned into powder or, worse, shrapnel.