Japan is Making Strides on a Space-Based Solar Power Plant
Nikola Tesla’s dream of creating a “World Wireless System” that would supply the planet with limitless wireless electricity is one step closer to becoming a reality. Scientists from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have for the first time transmitted electricity wirelessly through the air.
Researchers recently transferred 1.8 kilowatts of power via microwaves to a receiver 170 feet away. That amount of energy isn’t much, only about enough to power a coffee maker, but it opens up a world of prospects for alternative energy research. Researchers hope that one day such a method on a large scale can be used to harness solar energy in space and transfer it down to Earth. This project which JAXA researchers have already been working on is the Space Solar Power Systems project (SSPS) solar power plant in space. The plant would collect sunlight and convert it into microwaves to be transported down to Earth. Located in our planet’s geostationary orbit, it would deliver energy to a receiving facility on the ground. According to lead researcher Yasuyuki Fukumuro, this is still several decades away from becoming a functioning reality, mostly because of the technological challenge of controlling the direction, and transmiting it with pinpoint accuracy from a geostationary orbit to a receiving site on the ground.
Wireless energy transmission dates back to the 19th century when Nikola Tesla began experimenting with wireless energy transmitting and managed to transmit energy to power 200 light bulbs at a distance of 26 miles.
The idea of space-based solar power has been around since the 1960s, but Japan’s SSPS program, chiefly financed by the industry ministry has been around since only 2009. The country depends heavily on imported fossil fuels because of because of the nuclear power shutdown after the 2011 disaster at Fukushima. With more and more advances in alternative energy generation, this wireless electricity breakthrough is another building block in the breakaway of relying on fossil fuel.