California regulators green light space-based solar
By Darren Quick
December 7, 2009
Earlier this year we reported that California’s biggest power utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), was seeking to buy power generated by space-based solar panels pending regulatory approval from its home state of California. Now, true to the State’s goal of increasing its reliance on a diverse supply of renewable energy resources and of supporting renewable technologies at reasonable costs and risks to ratepayers, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has granted said approval.
The news shouldn’t come as any great surprise as the approval is not for the project itself. In fact there is no financial risk to PG&E or California ratepayers at all. Rather the approval is for a deal that sees PG&E agreeing to buy power generated from the first-of-its-kind project at a certain rate for a term of 15 years starting in 2016.
Solaren, the California-based company actually faced with the task of getting the out-of-this-world project up in the air, anticipates the system will provide 1,700 gigawatt-hours of energy per year throughout the 15-year contract term.
Space-based solar power has been researched in the U.S. for several decades and this summer the Japanese government announced plans to pursue a space-based solar program. The experimental technology uses orbiting satellites equipped with solar cells to convert the sun's energy into electricity, which is then converted into radio frequency energy that can be transmitted to a local receiver station, which will be located in Fresno County.
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