The renewables ambitions of one California utility are simply out of this world. Pacific Gas & Electric Co has signed a long term power purchase agreement to buy 200 MW of electricity from a start-up company that says it will launch a series of satellites into orbit with photovoltaic sails that will beam power down to earth through powerful microwaves. California utilities have recently come under increasing scrutiny for signing big contracts with projects that are not likely to be either financed or built as a way to avoid penalty payments from the state for not complying with laws requiring the purchase of green power (Windpower Monthly, April 2009). By 2020, the utilities must source 20% of their electricity from renewable energy, but are widely expected to miss the deadline. A three-year period of grace follows, before they can be fined for non-compliance. An exemption from the penalty is engaged if utilities can show they signed contracts with renewable energy generators but the generators failed to deliver the power. A common view from the wind power sector is that California utilities would be moving faster to build or contract with wind power projects if the law was more explicit about delivery of green power.
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Senior Renewable Energy Analyst (WindGEMINI Product Lead) DNV GL Bristol (City Centre), City of Bristol