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PG&E Looks To Space For Solar Energy

The California utility hopes to turn the sun's rays into electricity for customers.

Pacific Gas and Electric hopes to draw solar power from space and deliver it to California customers.

The company announced through a blog post Monday that it plans to buy solar energy from solar panels in space. The company has an agreement with Solaren, which will convert the power into radio frequency energy and transmit it to a receiving station in Fresno County. The energy would be converted back into electricity and distributed through PG&E's power grid.

The company must gain approval from California's Public Utilities Commission before moving forward on an agreement with Solaren for delivering 200 megawatts of clean, renewable power for 15 years, beginning in 2016.

A PG&E spokesman said in the blog post that solar energy is more easily captured in space because there's no atmospheric or cloud interference and no loss of sun from nightfall or changing seasons. He also said that there are no land costs associated with capturing solar power in space. Solaren has said it can make the system affordable.

Solaren has agreed to obtain government approval and address safety standards. PG&E will pay only for energy it receives, so there's no risk to the utility, Marshall said.

Solaren's satellite engineers, scientists, and company leaders have decades of experience in working with government and in the space industry. Its CEO, Gary Spirnak, engineered spacecraft projects for the U.S. Air Force and directed advanced digital applications at Boeing Satellite Systems.

A 2007 study by the U.S. Department of Defense's National Security Space Office said solar power from space holds "enormous potential for energy security, economic development, and improved environmental stewardship" and "is more technically executable than ever before."

Each year, InformationWeek honors the nation's 500 most innovative users of business technology. Companies with $250 million or more in revenue are invited to apply for the 2009 InformationWeek 500 before May 1.

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