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Wireless Electricity: Japan to Beam Solar Energy From Space

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You’ve heard of Tesla’s dream of providing wireless energy to the world via a gigantic tower that would charge the ionosphere and send current through the very Earth? Well, whether you’re a hardline skeptic or a member of the Cult of Tesla that was a cool idea, but not proven or entirely practical.


NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We know way more about electricity than we did in the early 1900s (Yay Quantum Electro Dynamics!) and the 21st century has brought us many similar technologies that charge everything from smartphones to toothbrushes (by induction, not invented by Tesla), but how do you really get a lot of energy transmitted over long distances without wires?

Well, one of the methods that’s been on the drawing board for future technology since the 1960s is the use of lasers or microwaves.


NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Japanese scientists seem to have made some impressive progress by transmitting 1.8 kilowatts (enough to power your average hairdryer) over a distance of 170ft via microwaves.

The concept here is to take a satellite with gigantic solar panels, launch it into geostationary orbit (about 22,300 miles) and have it focus a microwave beam (or MASER) onto a receiver array on the ground.

Space-based solar arrays have an advantage over ground-based arrays in that they don’t have to compete with clouds, rain, and the atmosphere soaking up their rays. They get pure, unfiltered sunlight. All they need to do is convert one form of electromagnetic radiation into another.

Microwaves can get through clouds without trouble, which is why it’s the wavelength of choice for entertainment and communications.


NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The idea is that the collected solar energy can then be “beamed” back to earth and stored in a battery system for later use.

It’s similar to Tesla’s wireless electricity concept, however, it uses a different transmission and receiving method. Wireless electricity is possible. We’ve known this for a long time. The question is how far can we transmit electricity effectively.

This is a big step in the right direction for energy transmission.