[ExI] Fwd: [Solar Power Satellite Place] Digest Number 186

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Tue Apr 14 14:59:50 UTC 2009

1. PG&E Makes Deal for Space Solar Power

1. PG&E Makes Deal for Space Solar Power
   Posted by: "markreiff" no_reply at yahoogroups.com markreiff
   Date: Mon Apr 13, 2009 11:26 pm ((PDT))


"PG&E Makes Deal for Space Solar Power - Utility to buy orbit-generated
electricity from Solaren in 2016, at no risk"

: California's biggest energy utility announced a deal Monday to
: purchase 200 megawatts of electricity from a startup company that
: plans to beam the power down to Earth from outer space, beginning
: in 2016.

: San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric said it was seeking
: approval from state regulators for an agreement to purchase power
: over a 15-year period from Solaren Corp., an 8-year-old company
: based in Manhattan Beach, Calif. The agreement was first reported
: in a posting to Next100, a Weblog produced by PG&E.

: Solaren would generate the power using solar panels in Earth orbit
: and convert it to radio-frequency transmissions that would be
: beamed down to a receiving station in Fresno, PG&E said. From
: there, the energy would be converted into electricity and fed into
: PG&E's power grid.

: PG&E is pledging to buy the power at an agreed-upon rate,
: comparable to the rate specified in other agreements for renewable-
: energy purchases, company spokesman Jonathan Marshall said. Neither
: PG&E nor Solaren would say what that rate was, due to the
: proprietary nature of the agreement. However, Marshall emphasized
: that PG&E would make no up-front investment in Solaren's venture.

: "We've been very careful not to bear risk in this," Marshall told
: msnbc.com .

: Solaren's chief executive officer, Gary Spirnak, said the project
: would be the first real-world application of space solar power, a
: technology that has been talked about for decades but never turned
into reality.

: "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," he said in a Q&A posted by
: PG&E. A study drawn up for the Pentagon came to a similar
: conclusion in 2007. However, that study also said the cost of
: satellite-beamed power would likely be significantly higher than
: market rates, at least at first.

: In contrast, Spirnak said Solaren's system would be "competitive
: both in terms of performance and cost with other sources of
: baseload power generation."

: Solaren's director for energy services, Cal Boerman, said he was
: confident his company would be able to deliver the power starting
: in mid-2016, as specified in the agreement. "There are huge
: penalties associated with not performing," he told msnbc.com . He
: said PG&E would be "our first client" but was not expected to be
: the only one.

: The biggest questions surrounding the deal have to do with whether
: Solaren has the wherewithal, the expertise and the regulatory
: support to get a space-based solar power system up and running in
: seven years. "Quite a few hurdles there to leap," Clark Lindsey of
: RLV and Space Transport News observed.

: In the Q&A, Spirnak said his company currently consists of about
: 10 engineers and scientists, and plans to employ more than
: 100 people a year from now. He said each member of the Solaren team
: had at least 20 years of experience in the aerospace industry,
: primarily with Hughes Aircraft Co. and the U.S. Air Force. Spirnak
: himself is a former Air Force spacecraft project engineer with
: experience at Boeing Satellite Systems as well.

: "The impetus for forming Solaren was the convergence of improved
: high-energy conversion devices, heavy-launch vehicle developments,
: and a revolutionary Solaren-patented SSP [space solar power] design
: that is a significant departure from past efforts and makes SSP no
:t only technically but economically viable," Spirnak said.

: Boerman said Solaren's plan called for four or five heavy-lift
: launches that would put the elements of the power-generating
: facility in orbit. Those elements would dock automatically in space
: to create the satellite system. Boerman declined to describe the
: elements in detail but noted that each heavy-lift launch could put
: 25 tons of payload into orbit.

: "We've talked with United Launch Alliance, and gotten an idea of
: what's involved and what the cost is," he said.

: The plan would have to be cleared by the Federal Aviation
: Administration as well as the Federal Communications Commission and
: federal and state safety officials, Boerman said.

: In the nearer term, PG&E's deal would have to be approved by the
: California Public Utilities Commission, Marshall said.

: He said the space-power agreement was part of PG&E's effort to
: forge long-term deals for renewable energy, including deals for
: terrestrial-based solar power. Marshall pointed out that
: space-based and terrestrial-based solar power generation were
: "really very different animals."

: Unlike ground-based solar arrays, space satellites could generate
: power 24 hours a day, unaffected by cloudy weather or Earth's
: day-night cycle. The capacity factor for a ground-based solar is
: typically less than 25 percent. In contrast, the capacity factor
: for a power-generating satellite is expected to be 97 percent,
: Marshall said.

: "The potential for generating much larger amounts of power in space
: for any given area of solar cells makes this a very promising
: opportunity," Marshall said.

: He said the agreement called for 800 gigawatt-hours of electricity
: to be provided during the first year of operation, and
: 1,700 gigawatt-hours for subsequent years. The larger figure is
: roughly equal to the annual consumption of 250,000 average homes.

: PG&E has 5.1 million electric customer accounts and 4.2 million
: natural-gas customer accounts in Northern and Central California.

Mark Reiff

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