Breakthrough Makes Space-Based Solar Power Possible

12/03/2015 8:23 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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This image provided by NASA shows the sun emitting a significant X3.2-class flare erupting from the lower half of the sun, peaking at 5:40 p.m. EDT Friday Oct. 24, 2014. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly and captured images of the event. (AP Photo/NASA)

Tokyo — Space-based solar power is now a legitimate possibility following a breakthrough by Japanese researchers, who successfully transmitted electric power wirelessly to a pinpoint target using microwaves.

The researchers were able to transform 1.8 kilowatts of electric power into microwaves and transmit it with accuracy into a receiver located 55 meters away, said Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa).

In an experiment conducted last week in Hyogo prefecture in western Japan, the microwaves were successfully converted into direct electrical current, 'The Wall Street Journal' reported.

The experiment was the first in the world to send out high-output microwaves wirelessly to a small target, a Jaxa spokesman said.

In space-based solar power generation, sunlight is gathered in geostationary orbit and transmitted to a receiver on Earth.

Unlike solar panels set on Earth, satellite-based solar panels can capture the energy around the clock and are not affected by weather conditions.

If implemented, microwave-transmitting solar satellites would be set up approximately 35,000 kilometres from Earth.

Researchers "are aiming for practical use in the 2030s," Yasuyuki Fukumuro, a researcher at Jaxa, said.

According to Jaxa, a receiver set up on Earth with an approximately 3-kilometre radius could create up to one gigawatt of electricity, about the same as one nuclear reactor.

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