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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Space solar power update

I've been writing about space solar power for a decade and a half. In 1994, I happened to call Peter Glaser, who had done much to develop the concept in the 1960s, for an article I was doing on commercialization of space. I hadn't adequately done my homework before making the call (a journalistic occupational hazard) and even wondered if he was pulling my leg with his effusions about beaming power from space. He wasn't. It's a serious idea, but it's never been clear when it will become practical and how it will stack up against various energy alternatives economically.

Now, California utility Pacific Gas & Electric has made a deal to buy space-based solar energy from a company called Solaren as soon as 2016. Motley Fool is skeptical. I say stay tuned. Given the problems of all other energy sources (including terrestrial solar, with its limited efficiency and landscape-despoiling arrays), space solar power just might have a real future.

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