California regulators green light space-based solar


December 7, 2009

Power collected by solar panels in space is beamed back to earth in the form of radio frequency energy (Image: Mafic Studios)

Power collected by solar panels in space is beamed back to earth in the form of radio frequency energy (Image: Mafic Studios)

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.

Via inhabitat via CNET

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

These people are scam artist or fools. Maybe they are just smoking some real good stuff ;^D.


After reading this article, Space-based Solar power, I am a bit confused. Article states that the Solar energy is going to transmitted to Earth via RF signal. How do you make electricity from RF?

Ken Conoly

It is possible to put the electricity into a microwave beam that can be transmitted to a specific place on the earth. A collector can turn it back into electricity. I cannot believe that the energy transfer will be at all efficient. I would be amazed if 2/3 of the power made it back to the earth. Combine that with solar cell\'s inherent inefficiency and the high price of putting such a thing in orbit and what you get IMO is some really expensive electricity or yet another stupid tech startup going belly under because of the gullability of investors.


RF conversion has been around since the invention of radio so that is not a problem. However the efficiency is a big question, which leads to the health and safety aspect of perhaps a megawatt beam of microwaves focussed on Fresno County. The orbiting transmitter would have to be exceptionally stable or risk roasting anything living near the receiving station. Distortion due to atmospheric conditions would likely make this a very tricky proposition. Dragon\'s den would dismiss this one in a heartbeat !


I can\'t wait to hack the controls and have my very own death ray/super popcorn maker. How much fun would it be to put popcorn kernels in a person\'s house then hit them with the beam.. Oh wait they did that in a movie.. darn.. maybe I will just point it at a popcorn silo... Even funnier..

Michael Mantion

I just spent quite a bit of time typing out a comment, then I submitted it. My session had timed out, and I lost the lot. I can\' be bothere to do it all again!

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