I begin this article with a good dose of genuine amazement. Imagine a field of solar panels floating in the dark of space, capturing sunlight 24/24. Now imagine radio waves concentrated in a beam of energy that flies from these panels to us on this blue planet and quarrelsome. Space solar energy.
Sounds like a sci-fi movie, right? We talked about it some time, but it was all in preparation. Now it has come true. It happened right now, at the California Institute of Technology, better known as Caltech. And it's the first time in history.
Congratulations on the transmission
The Caltech team of researchers, led by the co-director of the Space Solar Power Project, Ali Hajimiri, announced to have sent space solar energy to Earth without using a single cable. All thanks to MAPLE, a small prototype launched into orbit last January. What is it about? How did they do it?
One thing at a time. The device MAPLE (Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment), sent into orbit last January, collects space solar energy through two panels. This energy is then converted into direct current and sent through a beam of radio waves to a receiver on the roof of the Gordon and Betty Moore Laboratory of Engineering in Pasadena. During the experiment, the energy received was used to power two small LEDs inside MAPLE.
Two small lights that light up an immense beacon on the coming decades.
Space Solar: Towards a Wireless Energy Future
"As the internet has democratized access to information, we hope that the wireless transmission of space solar will democratize access to energy," says Hajimiri. This new technology could send energy to remote regions or regions affected by wars and natural disasters, without the need for ground-based transmission infrastructure.
The possibility of transmitting energy from space has so forcefully emerged from hypotheses that we are already in rational estimates. It could change the game of renewable energy so much that nations like Japan expect to start using it as early as the mid-30s. My daughter will be 18 years old.
A space solar system would be able to operate 24 hours a day, bypassing the night break that interrupts the collection of solar energy on the ground, and could send energy to the planet at costs that would become more and more convenient.
May this reality come as a blessing upon us. Decline and not be prey to (too many) interests and greed. Let's pray.