A Solar Space Odyssey Deal Planned by PG&E

By Published On: April 17, 2009

Investor-owned utilities are embracing sun power with gusto--both existing and futuristic technologies. This week, Pacific Gas & Electric announced it signed a 15-year agreement for 200 MW of solar power from outer space beginning in 2016. The technology is experimental, and would attempt to use satellites to transmit high-powered energy from the sun to receiving stations near PG&E substations in Fresno. Satellites far up in space are free from atmospheric constraints and can capture and direct intense solar energy down to specific receiving stations, according to PG&E. “The question is it commercially viable,” admitted Jonathan Marshall, utility spokesperson. Currently, satellites in space transmit low-energy radio frequencies for various purposes, from direct television (like Dish Network) to credit charges from gas stations pumps. PG&E should look for renewable projects “closer to home,” said The Utility Reform Network spokesperson Mindy Spatt. For Jan Smutny-Jones, Independent Energy Producer executive director, the issue is the appropriateness of seeking to qualify this project, which he sees as research and development, as a power purchase deal to help meet the utility’s renewable portfolio standard. “We have RETI and now we have SETI,”quipped Smutny. RETI is the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, which is a stakeholder process in the state seeking to advance new transmission projects for alternative power supplies. SETI, the Study for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, is the collective name for a number of activities to detect intelligence from any civilization on distant planets. PG&E filed an application April 10 with the California Public Utilities Commission seeking approval for the contract it signed with Solaren. The utility hopes regulators will approve by fall the power purchase agreement, which puts the risk on the project developer Solaren. According to the firm’s website, Solaren is made up of 10 engineers and scientists

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now