Gathered from the SN&R blogs

Space-based power plants: What could go wrong?

Space-based power plants: What could go wrong?

Space beam aimed at Fresno

The California Public Utilities Commission gave its blessing this month to an experimental “space-based solar project” that would collect electricity from orbiting solar panels and beam it to Fresno.

Why Fresno? Well, why not?

Solaren Corporation, the startup company pushing this could-be-first-of-its-kind solar facility, already has a commitment from PG&E to buy 200 megawatts of electricity, if the space array ever gets of the ground. That would be enough juice to power 150,000 homes.

The plan is to send solar panels into orbit, gathering solar energy and beaming it to a ground-based receiver in the form of radio waves. The beauty is that space-based solar panels are supposed to be 10 times more efficient than old-fashioned terrestrial schemes. After all, there’s no sunset in low Earth orbit, no cloudy days, either. Solaren says it will be good to go by 2016. And why doubt them? The concept was proven back in 2008 when scientists managed to beam 20 watts a distance of 92 miles. That’s almost enough to power a string of Christmas lights.

Nothing in the CPUC documents says anything about possible harm to living things passing through the space beam, so it must be totally safe. And if not, well, it’s just Fresno.

Compiled from Snog.

ClimateGate! ClimateGate!

One of the fun things about my duties at SN&R is that I get to go through all the letters to the editor and select which ones we’ll publish. One of the awful things about my duties at SN&R is … the same.

Both of those statements are true, and never more so than this week, when we’ve been hearing from climate-change deniers because we dared to publish Fred Branfman’s thought-provoking piece on global climate change (see “Do our children deserve to live?” SN&R Feature, December 3).

Most of these folks are still hung up on “global warming,” as if that means that it is always only getting warmer. After all, if it’s cold enough to snow in Sac, the planet can’t possibly be getting warmer! (Dude, that’s “weather,” not “climate.”) But most of the crackpot letters have been about the so-called “ClimateGate” hacked e-mails that supposedly show that “global warming” is a great big hoax. In general, the rabid right has been quoting only two of those e-mails and claiming this disproves, oh, about 30 years of science.

Compiled from Kel’s Hot Flash.