Japan and JAXA, the country’s space administration, are trying to make it possible to bring solar energy from space. In 2015, the country made a breakthrough when JAXA scientists successfully beamed 1.8 kilowatts of power, enough to power an electric kettle, into a wireless receiver. Now, Japan is ready to bring the technology one step closer to reality.
reports that a Japanese public-private partnership will attempt to beam solar energy from space as early as 2025. The project, led by Naoki Shinohara, a professor at Kyoto University who works on space-based solar energy since 2009, will try to deploy a series of small satellites in orbit. It would then attempt to beam the solar energy collected by the arrays to a ground-based receiving station hundreds of miles away.
The use of orbital solar panels and microwaves to send energy to Earth was first proposed in 1968. Since then, several countries, including the US, have spent time and money pursuing the idea. The technology is attractive because orbital solar arrays represent a potentially unlimited renewable energy supply. In space, solar panels can collect energy at any time of the day, and by using microwaves to radiate the power they produce, clouds are not a concern either. However, although Japan has successfully deployed a set of orbital solar arrays, the technology is closer to science fiction than reality. That’s because building an array that generates 1 gigawatt of power — or about the output of a nuclear reactor — would cost about $7 billion with currently available technologies.