The Green, Inc. blog of the New York Times reported on Thursday that California regulators approved a utility contract for the first space-based solar power plant in the U.S. The 200-megawatt orbiting solar farm would convert solar energy collected in space into radio frequency waves, which would be beamed to a ground station near Fresno, in California’s central valley. These radio waves would then be transformed into electricity to be fed into the power grid.

Global leaders have recently become more serious about breaking the world’s addiction to fossil fuels. To that end, the viability of more unusual technologies, including space-based solar power, are being evaluated. For example, Japan announced in September that it also plans to launch solar power satellites into space.

“At the conceptual level, the advantages of space-based systems are significant,” Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said during a hearing on Thursday. He continued; “while there’s no doubt this project has many hurdles to overcome, both regulatory and technological, it’s hard to argue with the audacity of the project.”

Space-based solar power neatly circumvents one of the biggest problems with ground-based solar power: cloud cover. In addition, because space is obviously BIG, many square miles of solar collectors could be put into orbit, and not take up space here on Earth. Each satellite could beam power to multiple receivers, allowing energy to be sent to where it is needed…

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