December 06, 2009
California Solar Power In Space By 2016?

30 years ago then California Governor Jerry Brown was called Governor Moon Beam in some quarters. The state's trying to live up to its reputation with state regulatory approval for the first satellite solar power installation which will beam energy down near Fresno.

California regulators went out of this world today and gave the go-ahead to a power-purchase agreement involving the nationís first solar power plant in space.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the stateís largest utility, will proceed with a 15-year contract with Manhattan Beach start-up Solaren Corp., after receiving approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.

The project, which is expected to go live in 2016, will use solar cells from Solaren on orbiting satellites to convert energy from the sun into radio-frequency waves. The waves will be transmitted to a receiving station near Fresno and reverted back into electricity.

Satellite solar power in theory is a better use of photovoltaic solar cells for a couple of reasons. The satellites can get hit by the sun's radiation more hours of the day and sunlight in space is higher concentration than the sunlight that reaches down to the Earth's surface.

The problem of course is that space launch makes putting lots of PV satellites into orbit an expensive undertaking. Yet PG&E apparently thinks Solaren can pull off this project in a cost effective manner.

Anyone understand what has changed the economics of space solar power that makes it possible for Solaren to get a public utility and a utility regulator to take them seriously? Lighter weight PV? Higher conversion efficiency PV? Declines in costs of space launch? Other?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 December 06 06:27 PM  Energy Solar

Brett Bellmore said at December 6, 2009 6:42 PM:

I think ALL of those have been changing in the right direction. But enough to make space solar power economic, even with the massive subsidies? Hard to believe that.

William O. B'Livion said at December 6, 2009 7:25 PM:

The problem is that you are going to have TREMENDOUS power loss in the electricity->Radio wave->Electricity conversion cycle.

And yes, I'm sure that PG&E knows this, I'm also sure that it doesn't matter whether the efficiency of the panels in space nets them more energy at a lower cost, all that matters is that they APPEAR to be working with "Green Energy".

After all, 10 years from now when it's clear that (a) AGW is pure bunkem and (b) The solar from space thing doesn't make dollars and sense, they will be able to can it--it will have served it's purpose.

James Bowery said at December 6, 2009 7:32 PM:

Nothing has changed to create this contract. PG&E isn't spending anything on it.

Jonathan said at December 6, 2009 11:21 PM:

This effort will be completely abandoned within the next few years. Just watch.

morpheus said at December 7, 2009 5:31 AM:

hey randall

u post all the time this gaaey news, leds, green power, cow fart power, solar power, and many other such things
u probably been brainwashed with since u where young, and u actually think ur smart or responsible human beeing and stuff:)

that beeing said i was wondering if u are aware that there are devices technologies, from simple devices that produce electricity without any moving parts, to antigravity engines and devices, that exist for at least 70 years, if just declasified could end all fosil fuel reliance next day, there are fully developed no need fo further reaserch etc
are u aware of this?
do u you know the secret space program witch has a whole antigravity space fleet and bases on the moon and mars for decades? and since u seem inteligent i let u deduct how far advanced those technologies are to make those things posible

so my question is are u aware of this? and if not i would say u might have 3 phds 2 masters and a nobel prize
and stil ur in dark little room in abasemant somwhere and have no clue about the world out there and u playing in ur little dark basment witch u never left with ur led lights thiking oh im so hip im working on future trends and technoligies and how they will affect the planet

so selfreflect and let me hear the answers

ps. here is a link for reference and in case u wanna leave that dark basement someday it will definatly help

or maybe im wrong u know all this but purpusfully avoid this matters and just go with the flow
witch one is it?

Bob Badour said at December 7, 2009 6:08 AM:

Well, you got the "im wrong" (sic) part right.

random said at December 7, 2009 12:02 PM:

@morpheus - I was totally expecting that link to be a Rick-Roll.

Aliens would never share advanced technology with us for the same reason we don't share ours with places like the Central African Republic. Even if they could afford it, they wouldn't know wtf to do with it.

random said at December 7, 2009 1:40 PM:

The most sensible application of solar power is to find ways to integrate it into new buildings. We just need to get PV shingles and siding are cheap enough to be practical. (And subsidize the grid-tie systems, which don't appear likely to become much cheaper anytime soon).

Wolf-Dog said at December 7, 2009 8:13 PM:

How about the old project to build giant space mirrors concentrating light into power generators on Earth? This would be even cheaper than photovoltaic cells. A mirror can be made very thin and light, covering several square miles, and it can also have many detached components, to minimize the danger of meteorites damaging the station.

jaytee said at December 8, 2009 5:41 AM:

all i can think about is the satellite power station in sim city....

....and what would happen to your city if the beam was misaligned

Randall Parker said at December 8, 2009 6:01 PM:


I love how you try to persuade people by first insulting them. Then you follow-up with misspellings and syntax errors in order to basically convey very little.

Yet you keep trying.

BTW, witches ride brooms.

Matt Metcalf said at December 9, 2009 3:43 PM:

I'm always amused by posts (@morpheus) that purport to have so much more knowledge and information than the rest of us relatively well-educated (but apparently ignorant) people, but the person posting it spells and uses grammar like a 3rd grader. Hey, @morpheus, just because you saw it on YouTube does not necessarilly mean that it's true.

Cyril R. said at December 15, 2009 2:19 AM:

Hey guys, be easy on Morpheus, it's his 9th birthday today!

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