PG&E wants to beam power from space

Pacific Gas & Electric, which provides the power for much of California, has announced their intention to purchase power from Solaren, a company which intends to put power-harvesting satellites in space, then beam the energy back to Earth. (And has a sci-fi logo to match.)
PG&E is seeking approval from state regulators for a power purchase agreement with Solaren Corp., a Southern California company that has contracted to deliver 200 megawatts of clean, renewable power over a 15 year period. Solaren says it plans to generate the power using solar panels in earth orbit, then convert it to radio frequency energy for transmission to a receiving station in Fresno County. From there, the energy will be converted to electricity and fed into PG&E's power grid.
Next up: Dyson swarms. Or Goldeneye. Update: Cryptogon is incredulous about the validity of Solaren.
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19 Responses to PG&E wants to beam power from space

  1. Osmyn says:

    What a coincidence, I just watched a clip on Isac Asimov saying that beaming power from space will usher in world peace:

  2. Noah_J says:

    aw, nice! now we just need to have someone whip up some cult-prone robots to keep the things running.

  3. Anonymous says:

    wouldn’t anybody nearby be able to pick up the signal and steal power? would the Power “beam” be concentrated enough to avoid that? would the power “beam” be strong enough to cause damage the the environment of the receiving station or any passing birds, planes, etc?

  4. Trilby says:

    Hey, it’s cool. We’ve got Bond, and I’m sure some of you lot over the pond can fish up a hot female agent.

  5. Bugs says:

    Lots of different plans for this system have cropped up over the last few decades. Most of the ones I’ve seen follow the same basic idea: use solar energy to drive a microwave laser, which you shine at a receiving platform on the ground.

    All sorts of problems crop up with the idea. The big three are:
    1) Moisture in the air will absorb the microwaves and re-emit them as heat. It probably wouldn’t have a big effect on weather — maybe just some local turbulence — but a cloudy or humid day would mean you lose a lot of the energy en route.

    2) Aiming the beam is tricky; you’re shining a laser from a satellite in geosynchronous orbit (approx 35,700km high). Even if you manage to make a receiving station as big as 2km in diameter, it’s a very small target over that distance. Then remember that the changing refractive indices of air masses (controlled by temperature, humidity, etc) will make the beam bend as it passes through them.

    3) Wildlife – arguably a minor concern, bu assuming you can get past 1 and 2, you’d better hope you’re not on a migratory route for anything that flies.

    So this is a lot like the space elevator. An awesome idea that we, as a species, really do need to get sorted. But I’m seriously skeptical that we’ll see a practical application within 50 years.

  6. Anonymous says:

    They’ll have to remember to set it to “no disasters” mode, though. Otherwise the ray might miss and vaporize part of your city, and you’ll have to spend a few minutes dispatching firefighters and rebuilding power lines.

  7. kpkpkp says:

    The “no disasters” mode is not that hard to implement – but it will be easy enough to circumvent

    Moo Ha Ha Ha Haaaaaaaaa!

  8. GTMoogle says:

    Oh yeah, this is the website design of a company I trust to beam megawatts of power from space to earth’s surface…

  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s a Californian energy company! What are they known for again? Oh ya, lying and cheating and rolling blackouts to serve external markets!

    This is money laundering, pure and simple. The Mob is nothing compared to these people. There is no product, and no serious plans.

  10. hungryjoe says:

    This can’t be more efficient than locating the solar panels on earth, can it? For the same cost, how many solar panels could we put in the Mojave Desert or some similar place?

  11. nutbastard says:

    Tesla had similar ideas, but was shut down when it was revealed that he wasn’t interested in charging money for energy.

  12. Trent Hawkins says:

    #13 – Because none of those are hovering directly over our heads at the moment.

  13. Moriarty says:

    Yeah, and he developed limitless free energy via perpetual motion machines, and predicted and preemptively cured AIDS, and developed toast that always lands jelly-side up. But of course, all of these inventions were suppressed, respectively, by the evil oil, pharmaceutical, and household cleaning product companies.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Oh, and side note: terrifying


    No more terrifying than any of the other weapons that can rain death and destruction at a moments notice anywhere in the world.

    How is this more terrifying than a good ‘ol fashion anti-personnel artillery shell? Or a cluster bomb? Or a nuclear weapon? Or machete-armed racists in Rwanda?

  15. dculberson says:

    Quote from Cryptogon: “In short: The various death ray projects would have a viable power source.” If you’re able to aim the microwave beam anywhere you’d like, I don’t know why you would need the death ray on the ground. Megawatts of microwave energy would destroy electronics, humans, machines, munitions, buildings… Why bother separating the “death ray” and the source?

    Oh, and side note: terrifying.

  16. Trent Hawkins says:

    So this is a power-harvester/deathray, right? I’d be very disappointed if it wasn’t.

  17. dculberson says:

    Anon13, what Trent Hawkins said. Keep in mind that this has no consumables. There’s no cost to “firing” it. And theoretically, if some safeguard failed, it could continue to rain death and destruction down, non-stop, either in a continuous path meandering across the globe or in a specific area. So imagine limitless bombs with no delivery mechanism required going off over and over again. I’d say that’s a little more terrifying, on a global scale, than a machete wielding maniac in Rwanda. Not on an immediate personal scale – if I was having a machete wielded against me I’d be just as scared.

    But this thing could be somewhat like Damocles’ Sword, hanging over everyone’s head, permanently.

    Or it could be the path to world peace. You never know.

  18. cinemajay says:


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