Not the actual Solaren system, but the concept is the same - Image credit: Inhabitat
Major Utility Promises to Buy Solar Energy from Space
Every now and then on TreeHugger, we find projects that seem so far out that they just have to be a joke. That's what I thought when I came across an article in The Guardian about Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E;) agreeing to buy 200 megawatts of solar electricity beamed down from satellites. And yet, looking back through our archives, PG&E; aren't the only ones who think it might work. We've heard Ben Bova of the National Space Society calling for an armada of solar power satellites, we've seen India planning to launch a solar power station into orbit, and the Pentagon has plans for a small demonstration solar satellite. But as far as I know, this is the first time that a major utility has agreed to buy solar energy beamed down from a satellite. So when is this futuristic scheme going to happen? Sooner than you might think.Here's more from The Guardian:
Solaren Corp, founded by a former spacecraft engineer, says it has developed a technology that would make it commercially viable within the next seven years to transmit electricity generated in space to a terrestrial power grid.
PG&E; announced this week that it had agreed to buy 200 megawatts of electricity from Solaren starting in 2016. The deal has yet to be approved by California state government regulators and PG&E; has not put any money into Solaren, but the promise alone has turned the notion of space based solar power from fantasy to reality.
"There is a very serious possibility they can make this work," said PG&E;'s spokesman Jonathan Marshall.
The technical theory behind the idea is that solar radiation in space is many times the power of the beams that reach us through the earth's atmosphere. Solaren believes it can convert that radiation into radio-frequency transmissions, which are then beamed down to Earth, converted into regular electricity and fed into the grid.