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PG&E Makes Deal For Solar Power From Space

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the just-watch-out-for-the-shadow-square-wire dept.

Space 392

N!NJA writes "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. 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."

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Bad idea (2, Insightful)

forand (530402) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568517)

This is a horrible idea. What happens when the beamer is hit by a micro meteor nocking out the com and pointing the sat at SF?

Re:Bad idea (3, Funny)

xTantrum (919048) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568567)

yeah this should make it way easier for the aliens to knock out our power systems and take over the earth. *sigh*

Re:Bad idea (3, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568577)

This is a horrible idea. What happens when the beamer is hit by a micro meteor nocking out the com and pointing the sat at SF?

Forget micrometeors. The real question is: what happens when Solaren goes the Enron way (and isn't bailed out by your tax dollar) and their satellite is allowed to go derelict and drift? Will it leave a narrow trail of roasted humans across California?

Re:Bad idea (2, Interesting)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569001)

Will it leave a narrow trail of roasted humans across California?

No. The microwaves are the wrong frequency, they don't interact with water and will pass straight through any living creature.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568595)

This is a horrible idea. What happens when the beamer is hit by a micro meteor nocking out the com and pointing the sat at SF?

It turns everyone gay?

Re:Bad idea (3, Funny)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568677)

A lot of folks in SF find a sudden need to head to the bathroom, preferably with wire cutters, to get those genital piercings _off_?

Re:Bad idea (3, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569017)

This is a horrible idea. What happens when the beamer is hit by a micro meteor nocking out the com and pointing the sat at SF?

It turns everyone gay?

That's not a horrible idea... that's a fabulous idea :)

Re:Bad idea (-1, Flamebait)

DamienNightbane (768702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568603)

This is a horrible idea. What happens when the beamer is hit by a micro meteor nocking out the com and pointing the sat at SF?

California gets a little less gay.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568639)

What happens when the beamer is hit by a micro meteor nocking out the com and pointing the sat at SF?

Then San Francisco residents finally get to be warm [igougo.com] .

Re:Bad idea (5, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568655)

I'm sorry, maybe it's too early in the morning for my brain to be working, but could you be a little more specific about what you consider the downside to be?

Re:Bad idea (4, Funny)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568689)

The effects of microwave radiation on high density airborne smug are still unknown

Re:Bad idea (2, Interesting)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568691)

I take it you never heard of the concept of "failsafe" systems? For instance - the ground station is transmitting a "keep alive" signal to the satellite once every 100ms. The satellite hardware is designed so that if the keep-alive isn't received after 250ms, it automatically cuts off the transmitter.

And the ground station is set so that if it detects the power beam moving over a certain distance off-center of the receiver, it cuts the keep-alive.

The only part of this concept that's "rocket science" is the business of getting the solar panels up there. The rest is just engineering (which engineers happen to be quite good at).

Re:Bad idea (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568719)

I take it you never heard of the concept of "failsafe" systems? For instance - the ground station is transmitting a "keep alive" signal to the satellite once every 100ms. The satellite hardware is designed so that if the keep-alive isn't received after 250ms, it automatically cuts off the transmitter.

Considering how far the beam might deviate in 250 ms, I think the reaction time should be made much, much short. Microseconds.

Re:Bad idea (3, Interesting)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568813)

Considering how far the beam might deviate in 250 ms, I think the reaction time should be made much, much short. Microseconds.

True - the reaction time should be shorter. So try this: The ground station is transmitting a laser signal, which the satellite receives using a system with a VERY limited field of vision. If the signal is interrupted, the power cuts off. That way if the satellite's orientation is disturbed enough to miss the receiver, it won't be able to see the laser...

The keep-alive idea I originally posted doesn't hold up on closer inspection - there's over 100ms of latency in a radio link from the Earth's surface to geosynchronous orbit...

Re:Bad idea (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568847)

The keep-alive idea I originally posted doesn't hold up on closer inspection - there's over 100ms of latency in a radio link from the Earth's surface to geosynchronous orbit...

The problem is that a laser beam doesn't go any faster than light speed, either.

The satellite would have to determine on its own whether it's still pointing the right way.

Re:Bad idea (5, Insightful)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569031)

The problem is that a laser beam doesn't go any faster than light speed, either.

The satellite would have to determine on its own whether it's still pointing the right way.

That's why I specified that the *receiver* have a very limited field of vision. If the satellite rotates enough to be off target, it can no longer see the laser. Thus no latency issues.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27569065)

The problem is that a laser beam doesn't go any faster than light speed, either.

ROFL! So true!

However, the light beam is continuous and a small photo-receiver and transistor combination can be used to automatically cut out the transmitter if the light beam stops hitting the photo receiver. It is a standard "light detector" setup like what is used in auto-on night lights. It costs about $1 to build that logic into a device and it is fail-safe. If either the photo receiver, the transistor, or the wiring fail, the whole thing shuts off. It is like holding down a button in order for the device to be on, except your finger is replaced by the laser.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27568873)

Considering how far the beam might deviate in 250 ms, I think the reaction time should be made much, much short. Microseconds.

To that response time you would have to add the time for the signal to travel to the satellite, which I guess would be geo-stationary, which is around 200ms IIRC. You can not go below that.

Re:Bad idea (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569081)

Considering how far the beam might deviate in 250 ms, I think the reaction time should be made much, much short. Microseconds.

All the realistic 'beam power from space' idea's i've heard of involve beaming the power down over a fairly large area. Large enough that the energy density per area is low enough that having the energy beaming down on your head for a short time wouldn't do you any harm.

Also, anything that knocked the satellite enough to deviate rapidly enough (eg for 250ms to be too short) would have to hit it pretty hard. Certainly hard enough for the satellite to know something was wrong and shut off.

Just take a minute to think about how quickly people would get lawyers involved if something went wrong. That's how careful they are going to be :)

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27568731)

Surely you're joking,

Apart from bugs in the satellite's software, there is a lot that can go wrong. But it would be a nice test case for anti-satellite warfare ;)

Re:Bad idea (1)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568999)

Apart from bugs in the satellite's software, there is a lot that can go wrong. But it would be a nice test case for anti-satellite warfare ;)

We *can* create systems that are bug immune. Note that I didn't say "bug free" - take three different architectures, and have three different teams write the code for them. Connect them in a "majority rules" redundant configuration. The odds of two of them experiencing bugs at the same time (or of having a hardware failure) producing the same result at the same time is pretty, well, astronomical...

Then there's the option of using completely dissimilar systems. For example, have the laser concept from my other post, along with inertial sensors that trigger the cutoff if they detect any motion that doesn't correspond to actions of the attitude jets/gyroscopes.

It's just engineering. The only reason all systems aren't designed to be failsafe is that it makes them more expensive. For an Ipod, that matters. For a solar power satellite, it's a different ballgame.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569045)

We *can* create systems that are bug immune. Note that I didn't say "bug free" - take three different architectures, and have three different teams write the code for them. Connect them in a "majority rules" redundant configuration. The odds of two of them experiencing bugs at the same time (or of having a hardware failure) producing the same result at the same time is pretty, well, astronomical... What about the chance of the firmware in one of the sensors (that all three systems unfortunately rely on) experiencing a bug? If the sensor says the plane has touched down while it's still 400 feet up in the air, then all three control systems will unanimously think that it's a good idea to shut the engines down now ...

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27568825)

I would hack the keep alive signal. Roasting SF.

Mr. Freeze (2, Funny)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568733)

It's no coincidence that Mr. Freeze was played by the current governor of California...

Re:Bad idea (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568739)

They solve the population problem?

As long as you have good fire coverage you should (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568835)

As long as you have good fire coverage you should be able to put the fires out fast with little damage.

Interlock (4, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568861)

These beaming systems have interlocks pointed back from the ground receiver to the satellite. If the two get out of alignment, the satellite immediately loses the ground signal, and immediately stops transmitting.

Besides, the beamed power density doesn't have to be very high per square meter. If it's just concentrated 5x from its density in space, it's 6.5KW:m^2. At this system's 2MW transmission rate, is only 308m^2, or a square 17.5m on a side. If it's really RF, even if the interlock failsafe failed, the beam wouldn't do much except fry some unshielded electronics in the way until something else shut it down. I'm sure the multiple layers of government regulators will ensure a lot of "deadman switches" to stop the only thing that everyone guesses could go wrong.

Re:Bad idea (2, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568955)

Any micrometeor with sufficient energy to give a massive solar power array enough rotational velocity to point it in a wildly different direction before the change is noticed and corrected will likely smash it to bits anyway.

Failsafes (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569011)

If the beam going off-track is a safety concern, it's a pretty safe bet that there will be safety interlocks designed to engage should such an event occur, up to and including a self-destruct device. In the space shuttle carries self-destruct mechanisms on it in case it veers off course into a populated area.

I've seen this (2, Interesting)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568519)

They mentioned it in the first Robocop movie.

Re:I've seen this (4, Funny)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569037)

They also thought Detriot would be a wastekand of crime and poverty and everyone would drive oversized cars.

Fools...

In all seriousness... (2, Insightful)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568527)

couldn't this also be used as a weapon?

Re:In all seriousness... (4, Funny)

Jamu (852752) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568539)

That's just a bonus.

Re:In all seriousness... (5, Funny)

mrv00t (858087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568569)

Just disable HAVE_WEAPON_SUPPORT flag in configure.in before building the sw for the space power station.

Re:In all seriousness... (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568593)

couldn't this also be used as a weapon?

Yes. But as the Russians found out - any energy source can be used as a weapon. The more people are dependent on it, the better. And such usage doesn't even involve violence - just mention that there might be some service disruptions, outages, etc, if you don't get your way.

Re:In all seriousness... (1)

800DeadCCs (996359) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568641)

Just make sure no one with the last name Hasek-Davion is working there.

Re:In all seriousness... (2, Interesting)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568693)

Yes, I'm sure it could... in theory. I don't know the numbers/ specifics but presumably, it could mess up communications equipment etc? I'd be interested to know what effect it would have on an airport for example. Anyway, that said I don't see that it would be a particularly good weapon. It could be blown up easily enough, and it's going to be a very large target. I'd also imagine that it would require a constant radio link with a ground station or similar, before it beam down any significant energy, like a dead man switch(or the opposite of one I suppose). That's just a guess though.

Re:In all seriousness... (4, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568795)

I'd be interested to know what effect it would have on an airport for example.

The in-flight meals would be warm for once. Now, if only someone could work out a way of beaming flavour from a satellite...

Re:In all seriousness... (4, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568705)

couldn't this also be used as a weapon?

"Tonight we had a most unfortunate accident. A micrometeor hit the satellite, changing it's orientation. The accident, unfortunately, destroyed a coal plant. Again.

Oh, by the way. We're raising the prices 25%."

Re:In all seriousness... (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568939)

"couldn't this also be used as a weapon?"

No, it will never get off the ground.

Having said that, Solaren's web site is all about down to earth renewable projects. The 200MW of power the power company has pledged to buy is the equivalent of 40 commercial windmills. My guess is this is a "foot in the door" deal that cost neither party a cent but Solaren now know what the power company are willing to pay. Using this knowledge they can go back at a later date and convert the pie-in-the-sky pledge into a purchase from a normal wind/solar farm that will do the same thing for the same predetermined price.

makes no sense (2, Insightful)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568533)

If you're lucky, you gain a factor of 2-4 in efficiency by going into space, but the costs per photocell are astronomically higher compared to installation in a desert.

That's, of course, assuming you can actually get other nations to agree to let you place a massive power plant and emitter in orbit, something that could easily be weaponized.

Re:makes no sense (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568565)

Ya know what else is astronomically more expensive? Getting power from a desert to where it is needed, and buying all that land in a desert. I'm not saying SSP is remotely close to being cost effective yet, but there's simply more to crunching the numbers than you think there is.

Re:makes no sense (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568581)

The only other factor that I can think of are land cost and maintenance costs. I'd assume you'd still want a large area of land, just in case the system should go off course, so that one might not be a significant difference, so that just leaves us with maintenance -- how much effort is it to keep a similarly producing land-based system, vs. keeping an eye on the satellite and keeping a smaller ground-based receiver going?

Re:makes no sense (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568749)

Bah, putting photocells into space is easy. Getting them up there in one piece and into a predictable orbit, well, those are just minor details. ;)

Not a problem, don't be such worrywarts (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568535)

As long as you turn off disasters, beamed solar energy is actually a fairly cost effective power solution.

Re:Not a problem, don't be such worrywarts (1)

Tridus (79566) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568551)

But what's the fun of playing without the disasters?

Re:Not a problem, don't be such worrywarts (1)

danking (1201931) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568587)

Wow, I didn't know you could turn disastors off. Instead we can just hope for no disaster and if one happens we could just hit the reset button and start from scratch. Seriously though, sending/repairing equipment into orbit does not sound cost effective to me.

Re:Not a problem, don't be such worrywarts (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568817)

That was a SimCity2000 joke...

Re:Not a problem, don't be such worrywarts (5, Insightful)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568589)

I sometimes wonder if SimCity has done more damage to the progress of orbital solar than all other causes combined.

Re:Not a problem, don't be such worrywarts (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568701)

I would think that the real problem is that Uranus jokes is driving research away from the 7th planet.

To answer the inevitable question (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568559)

No, these don't work like SimCity. The microwaves are not the frequency used in ovens -- ie that heat up water. Otherwise they wouldn't be much use on a cloudy day.

It's a very positive development. Orbital solar power is the best foothold for the colonisation, industrialisation and settlement of intrasolar space.

Re:To answer the inevitable question (1)

Missing_dc (1074809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568711)

Near the receiving station, there is no such thing as a cloudy day.

Especially if it is the same frequency as water.

"Fresno, home of the 5 minute tan!!*"

*: Some limitations apply.

Re:To answer the inevitable question (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568863)

You've misread me. I said it does not interact with water.

The point is that if you want to transmit power, you want to minimise power losses. If you choose a frequency that does not interact with atmospheric gasses -- including water vapour -- then you minimise those losses.

It does not interact with water, including the water which makes up your person.

Re:To answer the inevitable question (1)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568885)

Wow I wish I'd read through all the comments first... I just made a Sim City joke. Though mine was more of a reference to what happened when the beam missed rather than something specific about the mechanics of the process.

Re:To answer the inevitable question (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568987)

Pretty much any time orbital solar gets discussed on Slashdot, there's a bunch of jokes about Sim City, somebody wonders if it can be weaponised and somebody else thinks we're all going to be cooked. It makes me grind my teeth, orbital solar is one of my areas of interest. Usually I'm too late to add to the discussion, but not this time! :D

Still, for a bunch of geeks, Slashdot users sometimes seem to know very little about space. :/

Wind power ; VAWT ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27568571)

When are we just going to learn to invest (i dunno... like we have in other endevours - think iraq) in our future? Wind farms have been an untapped resource for too long.

It think they've been duped. (3, Interesting)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568573)

Or are they really saying they're going to install roughly 200000 m^2 worth of solar collectors in space? That's a square of roughly 450x450m. And "some startup" is planning a feat like that?

Re:It think they've been duped. (2, Interesting)

tomtomtom777 (1148633) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568633)

Or are they really saying they're going to install roughly 200000 m^2 worth of solar collectors in space? That's a square of roughly 450x450m. And "some startup" is planning a feat like that?

Nope. The amount of sunlight per m2 in space is several factors higher than on earth.

Re:It think they've been duped. (3, Informative)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568669)

Plus in space solar power is available constantly, rather than being affected by night time, winter hours and weather. As they point out you don't have to pay for the real estate, just the trip to get there.

And it gives more consistent power because you don't get dust settling on the panels. I realise that sounds stupid, but dust can reduce efficiency by a lot in a few years; your costs go up because you have to pay people to be cleaning acres and acres of solar panels.

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

dykofone (787059) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568799)

If you put the panels in orbit to be constantly on the day-side of the earth, then yeah, the power is constant. My question is how they plan to beam that energy around the earth to Fresno at night. Seems you'd have to have the array in geosynchronous orbit above Fresno to maintain that beam, which means the array will be in the earth's shadow just less than half the time.

Re:It think they've been duped. (3, Informative)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568827)

There are a number of points you can choose that are geostationary and in shadow less than 2% of the time (as I recall the 1970s proposal). Other schemes call for having multiple satellites that hand off to each other. This proposal is I think of the former variety.

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

dykofone (787059) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569025)

I tried to do the math, but spherical geometry isn't my strong point at this hour. I'm guessing it'd have to be closer to the poles to approach that 98% daylight exposure while geostationary, but even then it would require a pretty good altitude. That only adds to the difficulties casting a 200 MW beam back to Fresno. Disregardless, it's still very cool to see a utility distributor taking the idea seriously.

Re:It think they've been duped. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27568867)

How the hell does the moon work?

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568877)

How the hell does the moon work?

It's not in geosynchronous orbit. Duh.

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

dykofone (787059) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569073)

It's pretty far away (385,000 km, compared to 350 km for a lot of satellites). Even being 1000x farther away, the earth still occasionally casts a shadow on the moon ("eclipses" I think they're called).

Re:It think they've been duped. (2, Informative)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568931)

which means the array will be in the earth's shadow just less than half the time.

Not really. A Geostationary orbit (over the same point) would cut through Earth's shadow for about 45 minutes on orbits where the orbital inclination lines up with the sun... generally in the spring and fall. Other times, the orbit is up to 23 degress off the Earth-Sun plane, and not in the shade at all. Since this power interruption would occur at "midnight", it probably won't affect peak power usage at all. And if you put two of the things up, at least 10,000 apart in orbit (about 45 degrees of arc, well within the allowable angle of incidence), your have continuous power, with only one being in shadow at the same time.

Re:It think they've been duped. (2, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568849)

This _strongly_ depends on your orbit and your technology. Unless your collector is a sphere of solar cells, your collector or reflector arrangement will get different efficiencies depending on where it is pointing relative to the Sun. And for many geosynchronous orbits, the Earth will occlude the sunlight in the middle of the night.

Now, the currently available geosynchronous orbital space is dangerously cluttered. Big mirrors there are begging to get hit by satellite debris. A reasonably large solar mirror/solar sail can actually suspend itself in a wide variety of otherwise unstable orbits, using solar pressure for thrust. Those orbits are typically considerably higher than geo-synchronous, to take advantage of very modest thrust to balance the Earth's gravity, but there are big advantages in that you can put these _out_ of the way of the geosynchronous satellites, even off the ecliptic, and you can steer them into place using solar pressure from a lower altitude release. And, cleverly steered, you can make the orbit unstable enough to bring it right back to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere when the system fails.

This is one of the only sources of energy for our industrial world that does not require major technological miracles to expand to fill the entire world's energy needs. It's very expensive to start doing: the launch costs alone require a serious industrial civilization to support.

Re:It think they've been duped. (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568699)

Nope. The amount of sunlight per m2 in space is several factors higher than on earth.

The solar constant is about 1.4 kW/m^2 in Earths orbit. I fail to see how they want to produce 200 MW with significantly less than 0.2 km^2 of collector area. Care to explain it to me?

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

baffled (1034554) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568891)

Smoke and mirrors. Minus the smoke.

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568727)

It doesn't have to be thick: the old, classic scheme is to use a reflector of extremely thin foil to concentrate the energy on a central collector, and use that to transform and beam the microwave more tightly to a target. The big, big concern is weaponry uses, followed by security: the more efficient and effective the system, the more potentially dangerous for aiming at a neighborhood or a building. I'd be extremely concerned about the security of the control system for such collectors, although I see this as a truly excellent to bring cheap energy to the world for manufacturing without the toxic byproducts of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Powering desalination plants, for example, seems an ideal use of cheap, consistently available power.

Re:It think they've been duped. (2, Insightful)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568927)

Another advantage is the potential mobility of energy infrastructure that this provides. If production and distribution of electricity no longer need to be physically connected by heavy infrastructure, it becomes much easier to move and distribute the energy to where it's most needed. Mobile power-generation could be operated without constant fuel supply. More significantly, the daily and seasonal fluctuations in energy requirements throughout the world could be mitigated by redirecting collected solar energy to the countries/cities that need it most at the time. Granted it would be an administrative nightmare, but the potential is there...

Re:It think they've been duped. (2, Informative)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568943)

1. Orbital solar platforms cannot be used as weapons unless you are trying to drop them on someone (which is true of anything in orbit). The energy they put out is the wrong frequency; it doesn't interact with human biology at all.

2. If you can build 25 ton to LEO heavy lifters, James Bondesque schemes are a waste of time. Better to lob nukes. Heck, even throwing a 25 ton block of concrete on a ballistic course would be more far, far more dangerous than 100 years of orbital solar power transmissions.

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568981)

1. Orbital solar platforms cannot be used as weapons unless you are trying to drop them on someone (which is true of anything in orbit). The energy they put out is the wrong frequency; it doesn't interact with human biology at all.

Well, does it interact with anything else? Communications, airplanes, missiles, buildings? Who says that a weapon needs to be able to kill people?

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569061)

I believe it falls into an available part of the spectrum that's not being used or which could be made available.

I suppose you could try to use it for some sort of electronic warfare, but again it's a James Bond way to go about it. Too much money for a very limited, very easy to destroy platform. 200MW is not that much to work with.

So, like above, if you have rocketry and aviation you can achieve disruption of that sort in better, cheaper ways.

Other uses . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568815)

Maybe a bunch of these could be used to block out the sun, and thus, reverse Global Warming?

Re:Other uses . . . (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568895)

1. Very expensive way to perform geoengineering. There are cheaper proposals (iron seeding, spray boats, atmospheric particles etc) around.

2. Sunlight exerts pressure, so if it's not in an orbit, it will soon be on its way out of the solar system. There was a proposal to build fresnel lenses instead.

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568853)

maybe they are thinking to reuse all those progress solar panels instead of burning them together with the spaceship.

Re:It think they've been duped. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569027)

That's a square of roughly 450x450m. And "some startup" is planning a feat like that?

      Not to mention how the huge cross sectional area will affect the orbit, and the weight of the darned thing (how much fuel did you say you needed to get it/keep it in orbit again?).

      But hell, maybe they got someone at the power co to sign a document (after all, the power co probably didn't have to pony up any cash, only promise to buy the power if it was available) - and NOW the fun part begins, because they can go and screw over shareholders because "WE HAVE A SIGNED DOCUMENT PLEASE BUY OUR STOCK YOUR $2/share today will be worth zillions!!!11". Ahhh capitalism. Doesn't matter if they ever get it to orbit or not. I expect millions of dollars to be paid in executive bonuses, and the planning/design meetings will certainly be held in 5 star hotels around the world.

      And the best part is that it's all LEGAL, provided they actually try (not succeed) to make it work.

Goodbye Alexander Adell and Bertram Lupov. (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568613)

Took us long enough [multivax.com] .

Excellent headline (5, Funny)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568625)

"PG&E Makes Deal For Solar Power From Space"

Is there any other kind?

Re:Excellent headline (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568685)

It depends on what sort of arse you have. There are some who believe that they can generate anal solar power.

Re:Excellent headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27568923)

I thought it was anal LUNAR power.

Re:Excellent headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27569041)

[quote]Is there any other kind?[/quote]

There is where the sun doesn't shine.

Fresno... (1)

Temkin (112574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568679)

This is an excellent use for Fresno. I approve.

FraUDulent felon bankers phony payper up 30% (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27568703)

as for the rest of US, our net value continues to decline. more of the same old smoke&mirrors bs.

we think mr. obama is meeting unprecedented evile head on, & is trying to escape with our lives. thanks again sir, & continued God's speed to you.

no need to confuse 'religion' with being a spiritual being. all we're here for is to care for one another. failing that (which we're prone to do), we're just passing through whilst being distracted/consumed by the guaranteed to fail trappings of man'kind'.

Discovery Documentary (2, Informative)

muffen (321442) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568725)

I saw a documentary [wordpress.com] on Discovery a few months ago, it was an episode part of "Discovery Project Earth".
I found it extremely fascinating and was wondering if it would just die or if there would be some actual results from the project, seems like we are getting somewhere now!

I remember from the documentary that the biggest problem was the beam being split in two, rather than one focused beam. Hopefully they found a solution to this problem.
Anyways, I strongly suggest watching the documentary if you are interested in this, it really shows how the idea was born and all the small advancements they made which resulted in a successful test.

Ponzi Schemes? (-1, Troll)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568745)

The post just previous was about ppl being stupid enough to fall for a ponzi or pyramid scheme...

Just when you thought you'd heard it all, the State of California proves there is one born every minute!

"unaffected or Earth's day-night cycle" Really? (1)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568801)

"space satellites could generate power 24 hours a day, unaffected by cloudy weather or Earth's day-night cycle."

That might be true depending on the orbit. If it's in an expensive synchronous orbit it will still be in earth's shadow once a day but I would expect that the beam would have a pretty large diameter at Fresno. If it's in any other orbit Fresno will be in line of sight for only part of the time. So how do they generate and transfer power over 90% of the time?

Forget Earth weather, think about space weather. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568819)

"space satellites could generate power 24 hours a day, unaffected by cloudy weather or Earth's day-night cycle."

One good coronal mass ejection, and these things are toast, I would assume.

Re:"unaffected or Earth's day-night cycle" Really? (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569047)

Satellites in geostationary orbit are in permanent sunlight for the majority of the year except for "eclipse seasons" (vernal and autumnal equinoxes, lasting a total of about a month each) during which satellites can see up to 70 minutes of eclipse per day. This is caused by the Earth's equatorial plane being inclined to the ecliptic.

-Aikon

ok, wait a second (2, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568809)

I am really a supporter of solar energy - I even have invested some of my money in it - but THIS to me seems like technological masturbation. I do not believe it's cost-effective, and the debris in orbit is only going to increase, so it's a risky investment in any case.

Nuclear! (1, Insightful)

soupforare (542403) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568837)

How is this cheaper or safer than nuclear? Nevermind the costs, would it even produce the same amount of power after transmission? Why is nuclear such a dead end? Before someone asks if I'd like a nuke plant in my backyard, YES, YES I would love it.
Cheap power and a healthy green glow beats go-nowhere plans and whining greenies any day of the week.

Leik Myrabo FTW (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568857)

I had a lunatic prof in college who advocated this stuff, along with laser powered lightcraft. The technology really works - as he put it, if we can hit an ICBM at Mach 20 with a laser, we can hit a spot on the (relatively) unmoving Earth with a laser.

Sim City anyone? (1)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568865)

This reminds me a lot of the Microwave power from Sim City 2000... Anyone remember the disaster that happened with the beam would occasionally miss?

Tinfoil hats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27568871)

Just when you thought there weren't enough tinfoil hats in CA, the gov't is giving everyone justification to wear one!

I'll uh, believe it when i see it. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568879)

These guys made this deal so that they can get investors and loans to build the thing. It's no risk to PG&E, and now these guys have to execute.

In other news... (1)

danaris (525051) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568947)

...Solaren was purchased by the Mikado Group, whose chairman, Dauragon C. Mikado, says that the satellite plan will bring ultimate power...

listens to the crickets

Yeah...didn't expect many people to get that reference.

Dan Aris

I hope this is a joke.. (2, Interesting)

LabRat (8054) | more than 5 years ago | (#27568949)

...otherwise kiss radio astronomy in North America goodbye. Those guys thought they were getting interference from the Iridium constellation? Heh..wait until they get 200MW of broadband RF interference coming down on them from this monstrosity.

Not to mention, this seems to be a complete waste of resources. I'd wager that at least as much land (if not more) will need to be dedicated to the antenna array as a 400MW (put in twice the power to make up for day-only operations) solar concentrator plant if they want any sort of chance of capturing all of the beam for conversion. Add to that the fact that the increased solar incidence in orbit will be conteracted by the losses in RF transmission (engineers were thrilled when they achieved 54% between ground towers recently...). And lets not forget the rather substantial launch costs (likely hundreds of millions of dollars). All in all...this is a concept best suited to the Sims game than real life. I'm all for alternative/renwewable energy...but this is just a waste of time and money. But hey..if some VC's like watching stacks of hundred-dollar-bills burn in the mean time...more power to them. I just hope this idiotic scheme doesn't get any federal funding. Our DOE Secretary is a pretty sharp guy...I'm sure he sees the folly in it as well and hopefully will steer well clear of it. I would think the FCC would have something to say as well..considering the MASSIVE potential for RF interference. Investment tip: I wouldn't be sinking any retirement money into this outfit ;)

Ill Wind (1)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 5 years ago | (#27569015)

Novel by Kevin J Anderson and Douglas Beason. Part of the story sort of unrelated to the main plot was a company using a rail launcher in New Mexico to launch a bunch of satellites into orbit. They beamed the power to a grid on the ground in the desert. Power beamed back had a narrow range of reception so it couldn't accidentally fry anyone on the ground.

That said, /. Is getting really bad about people jumping in and shitting on whatever idea is proposed here. What the fuck is up with that? Almost all of the replies so far are "This will never work", like the people responding are scientists and engineers and have thought it all through, right? Where's your fucking white papers, assholes? "The Infeasibility of Space-based Power Generation Systems." Why don't you people eat shit and die.

Dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27569075)

Introducing MORE energy into Earth's natural system is worse than releasing all the carbon energy that has been stored.
    The planet is basically a closed system, it has come into balance with the available energy it collects from its surface area. Introducing more energy from an orbiting source will have a significant effect.
    This kind of power generating project is better left for a moonbase, or planet which does not already have an ecosystem.

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