Discovery (April 17, 2009)
"The California Public Utilities Commission is considering a plan that would provide 200 megawatts of electricity -- enough for about 150,000 homes -- from solar power collected in space.
"The company providing the power, Solaren Corp., of Manhattan Beach, Calif., has backing from Pacific Gas and Electric, the state's biggest energy utility, which last week filed a request with regulators to purchase power from Solaren's space-based network for a period of 15 years, beginning in 2016...."
I first read a serious proposal for constructing solar-powered generating stations in space, beaming the power to Earth as microwaves, in the mid-seventies. The engineering was straight-forward enough, pickup antennas on Earth would be effectively transparent: networks of wires which could be set over cropland, or low-rise urban areas, for that matter.
I suspect that California is looking at the orbital option, after somebody did what I did about twenty years back: do the numbers, and find out just how big a solar array you'd need to power, say, Los Angeles.
Back then, it looked like a big chunk of the Mojave desert would have to be paved with solar collectors. It would work just fine: the Mojave's just north of Los Angeles, it's fairly level, and is quite sunny. Between construction equipment chewing up the soil, and a permanent solar eclipse at ground level, most of the plants and animals there would die - but the power generators would work.
Generating stations in space wouldn't involve that conflict of interest: saving the pupfish, or keeping the lights on in Los Angeles.1
I've wondered how long it would be, before someone else figured that out.
- "Mojave fields are an energy-crisis solution"
The Boston Globe via Boston.com (March 31, 2009)
- "Desert clash in West over solar potential, water"
FOXNews (April 18, 2009)