Solar Power From Space

PG&E is working with Solaren Corp. to purchase solar power from space!! Solaren is creating solar panels that would orbit the Earth and send the energy back down to Earth through radio frequency transmission. The energy would then be converted and send back into the grid!

PG&E is pledging to buy the power at an agreed-upon rate, comparable to the rate specified in other agreements for renewable-energy purchases, company spokesman Jonathan Marshall said. Neither PG&E nor Solaren would say what that rate was, due to the proprietary nature of the agreement. However, Marshall emphasized that PG&E would make no up-front investment in Solaren’s venture.

“We’ve been very careful not to bear risk in this,” Marshall told msnbc.com.

Solaren’s chief executive officer, Gary Spirnak, said the project would be the first real-world application of space solar power, a technology that has been talked about for decades but never turned into reality.

Solaren feels that they will be ready to actually have energy that is ready to use by 2016.

According to msnbc:

In the Q&A, Spirnak said his company currently consists of about 10 engineers and scientists, and plans to employ more than 100 people a year from now. He said each member of the Solaren team had at least 20 years of experience in the aerospace industry, primarily with Hughes Aircraft Co. and the U.S. Air Force. Spirnak himself is a former Air Force spacecraft project engineer with experience at Boeing Satellite Systems as well.

“The impetus for forming Solaren was the convergence of improved high-energy conversion devices, heavy-launch vehicle developments, and a revolutionary Solaren-patented SSP [space solar power] design that is a significant departure from past efforts and makes SSP not only technically but economically viable,” Spirnak said.

Boerman said Solaren’s plan called for four or five heavy-lift launches that would put the elements of the power-generating facility in orbit. Those elements would dock automatically in space to create the satellite system. Boerman declined to describe the elements in detail but noted that each heavy-lift launch could put 25 tons of payload into orbit.

“We’ve talked with United Launch Alliance, and gotten an idea of what’s involved and what the cost is,” he said.

The plan would have to be cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the Federal Communications Commission and federal and state safety officials, Boerman said.

In the nearer term, PG&E’s deal would have to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, Marshall said.

He said the space-power agreement was part of PG&E’s effort to forge long-term deals for renewable energy, including deals for terrestrial-based solar power. Marshall pointed out that space-based and terrestrial-based solar power generation were “really very different animals.”

This appears to be an amazing ambitious plan to be undertaking. Good for PG&E to get in on the ground floor on this kind of project without bearing the risk of developmental costs. I think Solaren has a huge battle ahead of them to get the technology ready for this to work… if it works though think about the amazing power possibilities there are out there!

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