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Thread: PG&E makes deal for space solar power

  1. #1

    PG&E makes deal for space solar power

    Utility to buy orbit-generated electricity from Solaren in 2016, at no risk
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30198977/



    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 not 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 plant capacity factor 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 5.2 million electricity customers and 4.8 million natural-gas customers in Northern California.
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler



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  3. #2
    LOL. ULA cant launch that at a decent cost. Somebodies fishing for a subsidy/bailout.

    200 Megawatts from a 125 (only 50 tonnes if its in Geo) Tonne power station? The Space Station only generates 32 KWs... from its massive arrays...


    That doesn't pass the sniff test.
    Last edited by idiom; 04-13-2009 at 08:05 PM.
    In New Zealand:
    The Coastguard is a Charity
    Air Traffic Control is a private company run on user fees
    The DMV is a private non-profit
    Rescue helicopters and ambulances are operated by charities and are plastered with corporate logos
    The agriculture industry has zero subsidies
    5% of the national vote, gets you 5 seats in Parliament
    A tax return has 4 fields
    Business licenses aren't even a thing nor are capital gains taxes
    Constitutional right to refuse any type of medical care

  4. #3
    //
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  5. #4
    bump
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  6. #5
    Doesn't anyone else care about space? This is a monumental announcement.
    In New Zealand:
    The Coastguard is a Charity
    Air Traffic Control is a private company run on user fees
    The DMV is a private non-profit
    Rescue helicopters and ambulances are operated by charities and are plastered with corporate logos
    The agriculture industry has zero subsidies
    5% of the national vote, gets you 5 seats in Parliament
    A tax return has 4 fields
    Business licenses aren't even a thing nor are capital gains taxes
    Constitutional right to refuse any type of medical care

  7. #6
    cnet just came out with an article about this 8 hours ago: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10218788-54.html
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  8. #7
    Reaaallly light on specifics.
    In New Zealand:
    The Coastguard is a Charity
    Air Traffic Control is a private company run on user fees
    The DMV is a private non-profit
    Rescue helicopters and ambulances are operated by charities and are plastered with corporate logos
    The agriculture industry has zero subsidies
    5% of the national vote, gets you 5 seats in Parliament
    A tax return has 4 fields
    Business licenses aren't even a thing nor are capital gains taxes
    Constitutional right to refuse any type of medical care

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by idiom View Post
    Reaaallly light on specifics.
    It does show there is another company planning to do the same thing.
    Two companies see it as profitable. That is a good thing.
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler



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  11. #9
    I see it as a good idea, but I am building rockets that can launch bigger sats at a lower cost. Launch cost is the primary driver.

    The Space Start-Up community is filled with unrealistic people. The Proton, or the Ariane, or even that Falcon 9 are all cheaper than ULA.

    It just sound like they are either dreaming, or worse, they are getting contracts with PG&E and Boeing-LockMart so they have enough political pull to get a subsidy/bailout.
    In New Zealand:
    The Coastguard is a Charity
    Air Traffic Control is a private company run on user fees
    The DMV is a private non-profit
    Rescue helicopters and ambulances are operated by charities and are plastered with corporate logos
    The agriculture industry has zero subsidies
    5% of the national vote, gets you 5 seats in Parliament
    A tax return has 4 fields
    Business licenses aren't even a thing nor are capital gains taxes
    Constitutional right to refuse any type of medical care

  12. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by idiom View Post
    I see it as a good idea, but I am building rockets that can launch bigger sats at a lower cost. Launch cost is the primary driver.

    The Space Start-Up community is filled with unrealistic people. The Proton, or the Ariane, or even that Falcon 9 are all cheaper than ULA.

    It just sound like they are either dreaming, or worse, they are getting contracts with PG&E and Boeing-LockMart so they have enough political pull to get a subsidy/bailout.
    The contracts are only obligations if the venture is successful at getting the power plant in orbit. This would make it easier for them to get investors.
    If we can lift a shuttle and cargo into orbit, we can get a power plant in orbit.
    The shuttle is huge.
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  13. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by idiom View Post
    LOL. ULA cant launch that at a decent cost. Somebodies fishing for a subsidy/bailout.

    200 Megawatts from a 125 (only 50 tonnes if its in Geo) Tonne power station? The Space Station only generates 32 KWs... from its massive arrays...


    That doesn't pass the sniff test.
    Most people called Goddard unrealistic too... it will be people like Goddard who are the first to tackle the 'impossible'.
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  14. #12
    About.com says about $50 million to $400 million just for launch costs and the first article says probably five missions so $250 million to $2 billion just to get it up there. Ignoring the costs of building the system and its ground based facilities to go along with it. This hurricane satallite cost $290 million to send up. http://www.howstuffworks.com/framed....ch_000503.html
    Let's take a $300 million figure times five launches. $1.5 billion for 200 megawatts.

    This article about a Pennsylvania utility says that their customers will be paying about $100 a mega watt hour. 200 megawatt hours would cost them about $20,000. That is some really expensive power they are talking about going after!

    This one says one megawatt can power about 75 homes http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssE...39129420080214 so if they mean that their system would produce 200 megawatts a year would be enough to power 150,000 homes. Not including any costs of building the system, we are already up to $15,000 per person over the 15 years or $1000 a year. Just to get it into orbit.

    Like any new technology, costs will come down per unit the more units you make.

    A video about space based solar energy: http://www.thefutureschannel.com/doc...d_solar_power/

    They run some numbers here as far as transmission http://www.thefutureschannel.com/doc...ireless_power/
    Last edited by Zippyjuan; 04-14-2009 at 07:07 PM.

  15. #13
    It is a pipe dream, but if we could power our utilities through space based solar power, that would be the optimum solution.
    Electric cars would make a lot of sense and crude oil would be used for vaseline and plastics.
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  16. #14
    //
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  17. #15
    bump
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  18. #16
    Sounds pretty cool. Hopefully they are successful.



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  20. #17
    She uses vaaaaaaseeline..
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  21. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by youngbuck View Post
    Sounds pretty cool. Hopefully they are successful.
    If the satelites can last a hundred years, they could definitely be profitable.
    My worry is.. they get it in orbit, flip the on switch and it craps out.
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  22. #19
    They should be one of the most reliable classes of Sat. They will weigh hundreds (or thousands) of tonnes, be in Geo orbits, and moslty be composed of very high wattage power systems.
    In New Zealand:
    The Coastguard is a Charity
    Air Traffic Control is a private company run on user fees
    The DMV is a private non-profit
    Rescue helicopters and ambulances are operated by charities and are plastered with corporate logos
    The agriculture industry has zero subsidies
    5% of the national vote, gets you 5 seats in Parliament
    A tax return has 4 fields
    Business licenses aren't even a thing nor are capital gains taxes
    Constitutional right to refuse any type of medical care

  23. #20
    Here are the two companies working on the orbital solar power generators

    Solaren: http://www.solaren.com/

    Space Energy: http://www.spaceenergy.com/s/Home.asp

    Looks like Solaren is an LLC. So I assume that is not available to bought publically.
    Not sure about space energy. I haven't heard much about them in the news.
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler

  24. #21
    //
    rewritten history with armies of their crooks - invented memories, did burn all the books... Mark Knopfler



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