Calif. Utility Aims to Buy Power From Space

Orbiting solar farm planned for 2016
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2009 2:48 PM CDT
A solar panel powers a series of spotlights that highlight the New Mexico Army National Guard sign outside the Guard's compound in Rio Rancho, NM.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – California’s Pacific Gas and Electric is seeking approval for its commitment to buy electricity from an innovative source, the San Francisco Chronicle reports: an orbiting solar power array that would beam electricity back to Earth. Solaren Corp. plans to deploy the satellite sometime before 2016; PG&E has signaled it would buy 200 megawatts as soon as Solaren can provide it.

Conventional solar installations are only able to produce electricity during the day, and output varies with weather and day length. Putting the panels in space guarantees a near-constant supply of solar energy that is stronger than what reaches the earth’s surface, but the rig must be durable enough to operate in the Earth’s increasingly trash-filled orbit without repairs.