Plans for solar power from outer space move forward


A California technology startup is rapidly pushing forward with plans to build the first space-based solar power station to beam 200 megawatts of electricity back to Earth via microwaves to a receiving station near Fresno. The firm, Solaren Space, has been pushing for space-based power since 2001 and it secured a Power Producing Agreement with PG&E April 2009. PG&E (PCG) hasn't put any money into the project but its willingness to sign shows that Solaren must be doing something interesting.

The concept is not novel. Satellites floating outside the atmosphere can capture solar energy round the clock and without power-reducing cloud cover or atmospheric interference. The satellites use photovoltaic panels, much like what goes on rooftops, to capture energy and convert it to microwaves. A large antenna on Earth recaptures the energy of the microwaves and converts them back into electricity. In fact, space-based power appears to be quickly moving towards reality. The Japanese government announced earlier in September a massive project to build a space based power-plant producing two gigawatts of electricity.

I interviewed Solaren's Director of Energy Services Cal Boerman about the project.