Space-based solar plant gets go-ahead

California regulators have given the go-ahead to a project to beam solar energy from space.

The idea has been in the pipeline for some time, but has only now received official approval.

Solaren plans to use satellites equipped with Mylar mirrors up to 1km across which will concentrate the light onto photovoltaic panels. Power will be transmitted via radio frequency energy to a ground station in California. The project should get going in 2016.

Utility Pacific Gas and Electric has contracted to buy 1,700GW hours per year for 15 years from Solaren – enough to power tens of thousands of homes.

Space-based solar power has been under development for several decades, and this summer the Japanese government announced plans to pursue a space-based solar program.

PG&E and other California utilities are required to use renewable sources for a fifth of the power they sell by 2010.