California Utility Agrees to Buy Power from Solaren

December 3, 2009

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today approved a renewable energy contract for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), furthering the state’s progress towards its renewable energy goals.

Through its power purchase agreement with Solaren Corporation, PG&E is entitled to generation from a first-of-its kind space-based solar project. The experimental technology uses orbiting satellites equipped with solar cells to convert the sun’s energy into electricity, which is then converted into radio frequency energy that can be transmitted to a local receiver station. Space-based solar power has been researched in the U.S. for several decades and this summer the Japanese government announced plans to pursue a space-based solar program.


Solaren: We Can Launch Space Solar Power Satellite in Only 4 Launches


Daily Finance has an interview with Solaren’s Director of Energy Services Cal Boerman about the California start-up’s plans to launch a space-based solar power satellite.

Daily Finance: What has changed over to make space-based power technically feasible today? Have there been any breakthroughs that have made this possible?

Boerman: Actually, not really. The technology is fairly well developed. if you look at today’s communications satellites, they have solar cells that generate the electricity they need. These satellites convert the electricity into radio waves, then signal to your home to your television. That’s what DirecTV does. Except unlike them, we don’t throw away the center part of the beam where all the energy is located. They only want to signal around the edges. So there is no novel technology development required. It’s an engineering problem. Our challenge is to make the surface areas a little bigger and lighter but not to develop a key technology that makes or breaks the project. What we have done differently is keep the weight of our satellites down. Unlike other projects, we won’t have to build them in space. That’s a big difference.

How many launches will it take to the get the whole system up and orbiting?

We can do it with a small number of launches, only four. To get that, we had to come up with a design that was lightweight and innovative. We’re still using a big rocket….

Read the full story.

Is Solaren’s SBSP Plan a Game Changer or a $2 Billion Folly?

A giant leap toward space-based solar power
Los Angeles Times

A Manhattan Beach start-up called Solaren Corp. seeks to launch an array of giant solar power collectors into orbit 23,000 miles above Fresno and beam the energy to Earth. PG&E has signed a contract to buy the power — if Solaren can make the technology work.

The proposal is a potential energy game-changer, supporters say. But, critics dismiss it as pie in the sky.


Is Space Solar Power a Game Changer?

Will Space-Based Solar Power Finally See the Light of Day?
Scientific American

SBSP could, according to energy experts, provide constant, pollution-free power—unlike intermittent wind and cloud cover–sensitive ground-based solar, and without the emissions of fossil fuels or radioactive waste from nuclear power. “[SBSP] is a disruptive technology [in that] it could change the whole energy equation,” says Frederick Best, director of the Center for Space Power (CSP) at Texas A&M University in College Station, Tex.


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.