The idea of parking solar panels in orbit and letting them rain energy down upon Earth has been explored both in science fiction and in research laboratories for decades. Kyoto University announced this week that it took the first step in actually creating such a satellite, in its billion-yen test facility at Uji Campus.
While there are many stages in testing, only the final stage would involve the satellite. Solar panels well over 30 feet in diameter would open on the satellite once it reaches orbit, and transmit the energy harvested to Earth via microwave. If all goes according to plan, the satellite will be launched in 5-10 years. This year, the university is preparing for their initial tests – on the ground.
The microwave energy transmission facility for the first stage of the experiment completed at the university’s Uji Campus (in Uji City, of course) is currently open to the public. According to the university, the main facility has a high power/durability absorber, an electromagnetic wave dark room, measurement equipment, etc. They plan to conduct the world’s largest microwave energy transmission experiment in this facility.
During the experiment, microwaves of the same intensity that the satellite is expected to generate will be sent to a receiver antenna in the main facility. The microwaves will then be converted into usable electricity. The level of conversion efficiency is key to the experiment.
Regardless of the viability of a giant orbiting solar array (although it sounds awesome), wireless power transmission is a great idea with a lot of uses right here on Earth. Good luck, Kyoto University!
Source: Kankyo Business