Earlier this year California’s biggest energy utility PG&E announced that they would purchase 200 megawatts of solar power beamed down from outer space starting in 2016. As out of this world the proposal may have seemed, it has recently found solid Earthly ground as the state’s legislators have officially given this space venture the solar powered green light.
Through its power purchase agreement with Solaren Corporation, PG&E will be entitled to power generated from a first-of-its kind space-based solar project. The experimental technology will employ orbiting satellites equipped with solar cells ready to transform the sun’s energy into electricity. The electricity that is produced by these cells will then be converted into radio frequency transmittable energy, collected at a receiving station in Freso, California, and finally be transferred to PG&E’s power grid.
Solaren anticipates that their panels will generate 1,700 gigawatt-hours of energy per year (roughly equal to the annual consumption of 250,000 average homes) throughout the 15-year contract term made with PG&E. While an experimental project such as this seems far flung for California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard program, the agreement was approved because it remains consistent with the state’s objective of increasing its reliance on a diverse supply of renewable energy resources and of supporting renewable technologies. It should be noted that there will be no risk to PG&E, and in turn California customers, as the company is simply agreeing to purchase the power at a certain rate, if and when the project is ever up and running.