Japanese scientists have achieved a breakthrough in wireless energy transfer, successfully transmitting 1.8 kilowatts of power through the air. Using microwaves, the energy traveled a distance of 55 metres (170 feet) and reached its target with pinpoint accuracy.
For the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), this is an important breakthrough that will help them achieve their ultimate goal of someday making solar power generation in space a reality.
Beaming energy to Earth from space
While solar power has long been a key factor in powering space satellites and the International Space Station, taking energy from solar panels orbiting Earth and beaming them back down to Earth-based receivers is something Japanese scientists in particular are eager to realize. Although the advantages of such a solar power generating system are enormous, some key obstacles remain, “There are a number of challenges to overcome, such as how to send huge structures into space, how to construct them and how to maintain them.”
According to Phys.org:
The idea would be for microwave-transmitting solar satellites—which would have sunlight-gathering panels and antennae—to be set up about 36,000 kilometres (22,300 miles) from the earth.
Given Japan’s reliance on imported fossil fuels and its ban on nuclear power after the disaster at Fukushima in 2011, the Japanese government is investing a substantial amount of money in alternative energy production. Chief among their projects is JAXA’s Space Solar Power System (SSPS). Started in 2009, SSPS “is being developed as a system that will generate power on a geostationary satellite at 36,000 kilometers above the earth using solar cell panels; the generated power will be transmitted to earth by microwave/laser – i.e. without relying on cables – and the power received on the ground will be converted to electrical energy. As the power source is environmentally clean and inexhaustible, the SSPS is highly anticipated to become a mainstay energy source that will simultaneously solve both environmental and energy issues.”
For a simpler illustrative example of the SSPS, watch this: