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Heavenly solar plants
Giant San Francisco utility PG&E has signed a contract to buy power from a solar farm that orbits in space.

Peter Darbee is not your father's utility boss. The Pacific Gas & Electric CEO has inked a deal to purchase power generated by the world's first space-based solar plant. The orbiting solar farm will be built by Solaren, a Manhattan Beach, Calif., startup. By 2016 the power station will collect 200 megawatts of electricity that will be beamed to the ground as radio waves and converted back to electricity. "So 90% of the experts said, 'That won't work.' And that's true with just about every major breakthrough," Darbee said. He may not be as out there as he seems. Under its 15-year contract with Solaren, PG&E pays only for the electricity the solar space station actually generates. "What really intrigued me," said Darbee, "is that if it works, it will provide a tremendous breakthrough for society."

NEXT: Does clean coal exist?
Last updated May 15 2009: 9:54 AM ET
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