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Beaming solar power from space

Astronaut Steve Swanson on mission at the International Space Station

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: In California, air regulators yesterday adopted a mandate requiring low-carbon fuels. It's the first state in the nation to do that officially. And it's part of California's wider effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The standards are expected to create a new market for alternative fuels. There's already a market for new ways to make energy, and a lot of it is out of this world. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, here's Jennifer Collins.


Jennifer Collins: California law requires utility companies to get a fifth of their electricity from renewable sources by 2012. So Pacific Gas and Electric has come up with one project that's pretty far out.

Spokesman Jonathan Marshall:

Jonathan Marshall: To send satellites up into space with huge solar panels, gather the energy and then send it back to Earth via radio waves.

Basically they'd beam solar energy back to Earth and then feed it into PG&E's grid. Hmm -- sounds a little like a movie coming out in a few weeks.

[Star Trek theme song]

The plan is have those space-y solar panels orbiting the Earth within seven years. They'd generate enough electricity to power 240,000 homes.

Monique Hanis is with the Solar Energy Industries Association. She says the satellite project could make solar power more expensive and:

Monique Hanis: We feel that there's so much that can be done right now to capture solar power right here on Earth.

PG&E says solar panels in space would provide much more electricity than the ones on Earth do.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

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