Japan firm marks one small step for solar energy in space

March 13, 2015
Solarkraftwerk Waldpolenz, the first Solar 40-MW CdTe PV Array installed by JUWI Group in Brandis, Germany. Credit: JUWI Group

A major Japanese machinery company said Friday that it has succeeded in transmitting energy wirelessly, marking a step toward making solar power generation in space a reality.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said it used to send 10 kilowatts of power—enough to run a set of conventional kitchen appliances—through the air to a receiver 500 metres (1,640 feet) away.

Wireless power transmission is currently under development as the core technology to tap the vast amount of solar energy available in space and use it on Earth.

While the distance in Mitsubishi's experiment was not huge, the technology could pave the way for humankind to eventually tap the vast amount of solar energy in space.

The announcement Friday comes after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said it had also succeeded in moving a smaller 1.8 kilowatts of power wirelessly, and as a solar-powered Swiss plane broke a distance record as part of its bid to circumnavigate globe.

Resource-poor Japan is looking for ways to plug a yawning energy gap left by the shutdown of its nuclear reactors after the 2011 Fukushima atomic crisis. The accident forced Tokyo to turn to pricey fossil-fuel alternatives to keep the lights on.

"We believe we demonstrated the possibility of commercialising through our experiment," Mitsubishi said in a statement on Friday.

Solar power generation in space has many advantages over its Earth-based cousin, notably the permanent availability of energy, regardless of weather or time of day.

While man-made satellites, such as the International Space Station, have long been able to use the that washes over them from the sun, getting that power down to Earth has been the thing of science fiction.

The Japanese research offers the possibility that humans will one day be able to farm an inexhaustible source of energy in space, but it is estimated to take years, possibly until 2040s, to commercialise the new technology.

For years, Japan's space agency has been working on devising Space Solar Power Systems, under which microwave-transmitting solar satellites would be set up about 36,000 kilometres (22,300 miles) from the earth.

Explore further: Japan space scientists make wireless energy breakthrough

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teenagewasteland
not rated yet Mar 13, 2015
zero point energy. do it
Sonhouse
3 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2015
How much energy did they start with to get that 10 kilowatts? If it took 50 Kw, it would not be such a big deal, would it?
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 13, 2015
Well, at least according to here:
http://www.wsj.co...26100482

"While the energy is transmitted in the same microwaves used in microwave ovens, it doesn't fry a bird or an airplane traveling on its path because of its low-energy density, according to the Jaxa spokesman."
captainqtp
1 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2015
I thought we could just use solar collectors on the surface and large focusing mirrors in space to get energy? Why do we need to send down the electrical form?
Tri-ring
not rated yet Mar 14, 2015
Because in space there are no pesky atmospheric conditions like rain snow that ruins solar energy collection.
adam_russell_9615
not rated yet Mar 15, 2015
I thought we could just use solar collectors on the surface and large focusing mirrors in space to get energy? Why do we need to send down the electrical form?


I think because microwave energy can pass through clouds without obstruction and planes without harm, whereas energy in the visible range would be blocked by clouds and also present a hazard.
Nemo
not rated yet Mar 15, 2015
Elon Musk rains on this tech. Says the efficiencies don't make sense compared to simply using solar cells on the ground. How is he wrong?
adam_russell_9615
not rated yet Mar 15, 2015
Elon Musk rains on this tech. Says the efficiencies don't make sense compared to simply using solar cells on the ground. How is he wrong?


He could be wrong if he is assuming the efficiencies cannot be improved enough to make it work.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 16, 2015
Because in space there are no pesky atmospheric conditions like rain snow that ruins solar energy collection.

...and space lacks the most pesky condition of all: night.

Elon Musk rains on this tech. Says the efficiencies don't make sense compared to simply using solar cells on the ground. How is he wrong?

He isn't wrong. The issue is more conplex. Solar on the ground suffers from one great drawback: it's not always available when it's needed. So on the ground you need storage solutions for energy. If you add the cost and efficiency of ground storage vs. the 24/7 availability of space based solar then the calcs look different.

Though I still think ground based solar comes out ahead. And having storage is a good idea in any case as space based solar can be destroyed/held hostage/compromised by hacking...whereas ground based solar can't (to that degree)

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