Japanese scientists have managed to wirelessly transfer 1.8 kilowatts of electrical energy via microwaves to a receiver 55 meters away. Despite the relatively small distance, the technology could one day make solar power from space available on Earth.
One of the researchers from JAXA, the Japanese space agency, says on France24 that it is the first time that almost two kilowatts have been successfully sent via microwaves to a small target over such a long distance. The space agency has been working for years on so-called Space Solar Power Systems, because generating energy outside the atmosphere has many advantages compared to on the Earth’s surface. The satellites with solar panels should be placed about 36,000 kilometers from Earth.
The efficiency of solar panels in space is much higher than on Earth, but it is not known when practical applications of the technology can be expected. The spokesperson says it is ‘maybe 2040 or later’. The biggest challenges, besides perfecting the technology, are how to build the structures in space and how to maintain them.
The Japanese have been working on energy generation in space for a long time, partly because the country has relatively few resources of its own to generate energy and the resistance to nuclear power plants has increased due to the Fukushima disaster.