Intergalactic energy

PG&E approved to use experimental space technology

The California Public Utilities Commission approved a renewable-energy contract for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. that will allow the energy company to use space-based technology that converts the sun’s energy into electricity, according to a press release.

Through a power-purchase agreement with Solaren Corp., PG&E is entitled to an experimental space-based project that uses orbiting satellites equipped with solar cells to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. The electricity is then converted into radio-frequency energy that can be transmitted to a local receiver station.

The 15-year contract will begin in 2016 at a facility in Fresno County, and the California-based Solaren anticipates 1,700 gigawatt hours of energy per year.

The United States has been researching space-based solar power for several decades. The first-of-its-kind project is unique for California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard program, and the agreement was approved by the CPUC because it is consistent with the state’s renewable-energy objectives, which focus on using renewable technologies that don’t pose great costs or risks to ratepayers.