Solaren: Powering the World With Sunlight

Startup to Beam Power from Space
Technology Review

Now Solaren Corporation, a startup based in Manhattan Beach, CA, is trying to get the idea off the ground. It’s working with the California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which intends to enter into a power-purchase agreement with the company. If the agreement is approved by regulators, starting in 2016, the utility will purchase 200 megawatts of power from Solaren at an undisclosed price–that is, if the startup can get a system into space and working by then. The company has already selected a site in California for the receiving station; it hasn’t said exactly where, but it will be close to a PG&E substation and won’t require long-distance transmission lines.

Solaren hasn’t released many details about the system. CEO Gary Spirnak says that it’s conceptually the same as communications satellite technology: it uses solar panels to generate electricity, which gets sent to Earth in the form of radio waves, which are received by antennas on Earth. In a Q & A published by PG&E, he said that the design is “a significant departure from past efforts,” so it will be economically feasible. The first system will reportedly be able to generate 1,000 megawatts–about the size of many conventional power plants. The company will need to raise billions of dollars to construct the plant. Right now, it only has 10 employees.

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  • Michael

    Talk about doublethink! They want us to believe that burning fossil fuels is causing global warming so we switch to solar, wind, geothermal, etc. People’s perception of capturing solar energy for electricity production is squeaky clean. So how could solar panels in space be any different? Well I’ll tell you.

    Solar energy is being diverted to the earth that would normally pass it by.

    This idea certainly would cause man made global warming since the earth would be receiving more solar energy than it would naturally. It doesn’t matter that it’s being converted to radio waves for transmission. Energy is energy. It cannot be created or destroyed. Once that extra energy is here on earth, it’s up to the earth to rid itself of it. There’s no debating that this idea would cause man made global warming.

    There are already sufficient amounts of solar energy hitting the earth’s surface that we can harness. What we need to work on is better energy storage. There exists today upper and lower reservoirs where water is pumped up when demand is low, and allowed to flow down to produce electricity when the demand is high.

    We need smaller residential type systems so that the stored energy is close to the consumer, reducing the need for transmission lines over long distances. I don’t like the idea of conventional batteries because you have to dispose of them when they die. A system of electrolyzing water, storage and fuel cell would be more desirable.

    I really hope this idea gets shut down before any large amounts of money are wasted on it.