Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Far Out Idea For Solar

Lately we've been posting about the ironic conflict between conservationists and solar power advocates who want to use large tracts of land for solar farms. We've long discussed the perennial opposition to solar projects by environmentalists who fight the construction of new transmission lines. Now, one company has a solution to both problems-- put solar arrays in space.

According to David Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Sometime before 2016, Solaren Corp. plans to launch the world's first orbiting solar farm. Unfurled in space, the panels would bask in near-constant sunshine and provide a steady flow of electricity day and night. Receivers on the ground would take the energy - transmitted through a beam of electromagnetic waves - and feed it into California's power grid."

The receiving station would be in Fresno.

Anticipating a potential line of opposition to the project, the Chronicle write-up includes a bolded sub-title that reads "Not a Laser Death Ray." It's probably not unreasonable to have a visceral reaction to the idea of a concentrated electromagnetic ray being beamed at Fresno, so this will present something of a public relations problem for Solaren.

Additionally, with the problem of "space junk" getting more and more press, you have to ask yourself if putting a massive solar array into orbit is a good idea.