Wireless Power Transmission Over a Long Distance
If space-based solar power is ever to be feasible, wireless transmission of power needs to be achieved. We are one step closer to that goal because of a successful experiment that recently took place.
A solid-state phased array transmitter located on the U.S. island of Maui (on Haleakala) and receivers located on the island of Hawai’i (Mauna Loa) and airborne.
The demonstration, achieved by Managed Energy Technologies LLC of the U.S. and sponsored by Discovery Communications, Inc., involved the transmission of RF energy over a distance of up to 148 kilometers (about 90 miles): almost 100-times further than a major 1970s power transmission performed by NASA in the Mojave Desert in California.
The 2008 project (which lasted only 5 months and cost less than $1M) proved that real progress toward Space Solar Power can be made quickly, affordably and internationally, including key participants from the U.S. and Japan.
A number of key technologies were integrated and tested together for the first time in this project, including solar power modules, solid-state FET amplifiers, and a novel “retrodirective” phase control system. In addition, the project developed the first ever “field-deployable” system-developing new information regarding the prospective economics of space solar power / wireless power transmission systems.
There is little doubt in my mind that with sufficiently advanced technology, space-based solar power is the most elegant way to produce lots of always-on clean power relatively cheaply. We might need more advanced nanotechnology before getting there (to create a space elevator to bring down the $/KG of getting materials into orbit), but it’s nothing that can’t be done in theory. Who knows how long it will take to happen, though. Large scale Enhanced Geothermal Systems could happen first, but the oil industry will probably get first dibs on drilling equipment and engineers for a good while longer and it’s not as sexy as a new “Moonshot” to politicians, so funding could be a problem.
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