It was around this time last year, when we first told you about scientists working on a technology that can wirelessly send solar energy from space.
It makes perfect sense after all, up there nothing can stand in the way between solar rays and solar panels- no clouds, no light scattering particles, not even nights. Nevertheless, the idea always sounded a bit adventurous and far-fetched, mainly because no one could imagine it happening.
When the guys from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) promised to deliver solar energy from space as early as in 2020, and claimed that they will bring to earth the massive 1GW by 2040, I doubt many took them seriously. It seems, however, that they really meant business, and their advanced microwave technology was not just a proof-of-concept thing, it actually worked.
The team was able to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power to a receiver situated 55 meters (170 feet) away. This was made possible thanks to microwaves, which wirelessly transmitted the space based solar power with an incredible accuracy.
The great success of the technology marked the moment as the first in history. To date, no one has managed to transfer such large amount of solar energy to such a small target. The inventors are proud to pave the way to bringing us a step closer to making use of the unlimited solar energy in space.
The way the scientists see this technology working is through satellites, which transmit solar power with microwaves. The satellites will orbit the Earth at a distance of 36,000km (22,300 miles), and they would be equipped with panels that catch the sunlight and antennae.
Of course there are quite a few issues that have to be overcome before space based solar power can really be put into use, including sending and maintenance of the satellites, as well as increasing greatly the transmission distance. Nevertheless, the team is convinced that it is just a matter of time and not a question of feasibility.
Image (c) JAXA