Solaren hopes to raise enough money to develop a solar farm that will orbit in space. That’s just a portion of the total budget that runs in the billions of dollars, as a single rocket costs $150 million.
The company wants to be a pioneer in solar space power and aims to close funding in less than two months so it can initiate the development stage. Solaren needs at least $100 million to test and make prototype of its designs.
In April 2009 Solaren announced its plans to sell electricity to Pacific Gas and Electric. The fifteen-year contract states that the space solar power company must start delivering 1700 gigawatt hours of electricity by June 2016 . The California Public Utilities Commission has already approved this with the condition that PG&E can’t count the contract as part of the state’s mandate to increase electricity from sustainable sources unless Solaren meets certain milestones.
To date both U.S. and Japan have spent money in research for an orbiting solar farm in space. NASA previously received funding to identify and explore the possibilities of generating energy in space and beam it down back to Earth, but that funding has since stopped. JAXA has also been known to conduct experiments in the field.
Some California legislators are questioning the contract because the goal seems unreasonable if not impossible to them since the proposed solar farm is unfeasible because Solaren can’t deploy a complex unit any time soon. Solaren must also answer how it will transport workers into space to put together the proposed space solar unit.
Critics say that based on experiences from past space projects such as the ISS, the space solar unit can’t be completed in a five- to six-year period. JAXA’s space solar power generator is planned to be operational in 2030. The technology might be there, but the project might take a lot of time to implement and would not fit in the timeframe of the contract.
The race to be the first provider of space solar power is on. Solaren appears to have the lead, but its critics say their claims can’t come to fruition in such a small timeframe. Therefore, Solaren must try to prove to naysayers and investors that its plan can work in or before 2016. A space-based solar farm would be a good source of sustainable energy since it wouldn’t rely on the weather as most solar power systems do today.