How solar PV could redraw the map for green energy and grid investment.
Bruce W. Radford is publisher of Public Utilities Fortnightly.
When Pacific Gas & Electric broke the news six weeks ago that it had signed a deal with Solaren Corp. to buy 200 MW of solar energy from satellites launched into geosynchronous orbit, the idea seemed almost laughable.
Solaren’s plan is to catch unobstructed sunlight falling on arrays of photovoltaic solar panels deployed in the crystalline void of outer space, and then to convert the generated electricity into radio-frequency energy for transmission to Solaren’s ground-based receiving station outside Fresno.
In fact, PG&E has committed to buying 850 GWh from Solaren in year one of the project, plus 1,700 GWh/yr. through the end of a proposed 15-year term. That’s according to the application PG&E filed with the California PUC to win authority to bill ratepayers for the cost, the theory being that the project will satisfy the “least cost, best fit” (LCBF) test mandated by California’s statutory renewable portfolio standard (RPS)—by far the most strict in the nation. (CPUC Advice Letter 3449-E, filed April 10, 2009).