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April 15, 2009

PG&E: we're going to orbit solar collector panels and beam power down to earth

The eco whiners object to solar on the ground saying it will disturb desert ecosystems, so PG&E plans to put the damn things in orbit where there aren't any desert tortoises or gila monsters to upset.

...PG&E is seeking approval from state regulators for a power purchase agreement with Solaren Corp., a Southern California company that has contracted to deliver 200 megawatts of clean, renewable power over a 15 year period...
There are a few obvious advantages to space based collectors:

They're sabotage free, earth bound eco-nutters will have a hard time getting to your orbital shit to fuck it up, and they'll hesitate to go near the ground based transmission stations for fear of being cooked like bacon by the power coming down.

There's more power per square meter available in space (no atmospheric heating effects and reflectivity to sap it), and there's a broader spectrum available to tap as various atmospheric gases filter out some of the spectrum before it reaches the ground. Essentially, there's a big boost in defacto cell efficiency to be had here if your cells can operate outside the visible spectrum.

Lighter, flimsier materials can be used in construction. On the ground, whatever you build needs to be able to handle gravity + localized mechanical load disturbances due to weather, earthquakes, birds sitting on stuff, etc. In space you're going to get penetrations and erosion from micrometorites and shit like that though, but it will take a while for significant damage to accumulate.

The big objections will come from the "OMG, if its alignment goes berserk, it'll cook a whole town like bacon!" crowd. Of course building suitable fail safes and self destruct/retarget to deep space/panel feathering/etc on the transmitter should it lose lock aren't all that difficult, in fact they're rather trivial.


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posted by Purp at 08:52 AM

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