Harvesting Solar Rays in Space
When in distress we often look towards the heaven to find an answer to our problems. West coast energy giant, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is doing the same. They are heading towards heaven to trap the sources of renewable energy. This company’s main operations are in San Francisco and northern California. They are trying to get approval from US regulators to purchase 200 megawatts worth of solar energy delivered from solar panels located in space. There is nothing new in this proposal. Pentagon conducted a study on similar lines in 2007. Pentagon study concluded that satellite based solar power is feasible but not economical. It will cost a leg for potential consumers. But PG&E and its partner Solaren that will build the solar panels, quash those fears. They assure that their costs will be comparable to rates for other lines of renewable power. But how? They are not answering that! But Solaren claims it has developed a technology that would make it commercially viable within the next seven years.
Solaren CEO Gary Spimak said, “While a system of this scale and exact configuration has not been built, the underlying technology is very mature and is based on communications satellite technology.” For over 45 years, satellites have collected solar energy in Earth orbit via solar cells, and converted it to radio-frequency energy for transmissions to Earth-receive stations.”
The sky is really not the limit for PG&E. They are looking beyond that. Their plan is to put solar panels in space. These satellite solar cells would trap the sun’s rays 24 hours a day. If you are trying to capture sun ray’s in space you don’t have to fear about clouds or nights. Sun rays in space are available twenty four hours. After trapping the solar energy they would be converted to radio-frequencies that transmit to ground stations in Fresno County, California. We all know that this radio energy can be transformed into electricity and sent into the grid.
PG&E hopes to complete this project in 2016. The challenges are enormous. But now countries and companies both think and feel that space-based solar power (SBSP) can be answer to the clean and green energy and in the near future the technology will be affordable too. According to the agreement between PG&E and space solar power company Solaren, the solar panels will be built and put in place by 2016. PG&E wants to produce enough clean energy to fuel half a million homes.
Daniel Kammen, who is a professor of energy and resources at the University of California, Berkeley, sounds hopeful, “The ground rules are looking kind of promising … it is doable. Whether it is doable at a reasonable cost, we just don’t know.”