Successful test raises prospects of space-based solar power generation
Japan’s space agency has successfully transmitted electricity converted into microwaves in an experiment that moves the world closer to receiving energy generated by orbiting solar panels.
The experiment was conducted March 8 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and other organizations at Mitsubishi Electric Corp.’s outdoor testing ground in Hyogo Prefecture.
The researchers fine-tuned their equipment to transmit the microwaves to a receiving antenna over a distance of about 55 meters.
"Being able to control microwaves is an important technology in transmitting electricity safely and without loss," said Kazuo Ohashi, director of JAXA's Advanced Mission Research Group. "The successful test was a big step for us."
Although there are still many remaining obstacles, such as the massive costs associated with setting up such a system, JAXA and partners estimate that a solar panel in orbit with a diameter of two to three kilometers could generate a gigawatt of electricity, equivalent to the power created by a nuclear reactor.
Having solar power generated in outer space has the advantage of the operation being unaffected by weather or nightfall.
Because powerful microwaves are potentially harmful and dangerous to humans and the environment, the direction to which the beam is emitted has to be precisely controlled.
JAXA is developing what it calls the Space Solar-Power System, which is designed to transmit electricity generated by solar arrays back to Earth by converting the energy into microwaves or other beams.
Research on such a system first took off in Japan in the 1980s.
Quelle: The Asahi Shimbun