California gives green light to space-based solar power project


Beaming solar power down from outer space is A-OK according to the California Public Utility Commission. The regulatory body voted unanimously Thursday to approve a "Power Purchase Agreement" signed between the state's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG), and Solaren Space. The Southern California start-up is developing technology for what it hopes will be an orbiting solar power collection system that could add a whopping 200 megawatts to the Golden State's increasingly green grid. The project will cost $2 billion, Solaren executives estimate.

The concept is not new. Satellites orbiting far enough outside our atmosphere can capture solar energy around the clock, and without power-reducing cloud cover or atmospheric interference. The satellites use photovoltaic panels, much like those that are installed on ordinary buildings, to capture solar energy and convert it into electricity.