ESA SOLARIS: Wireless Power Beamed Down From Space

Wireless Power From Space

Solar power gathered far away in space, seen here being transmitted wirelessly down to Earth to wherever it is needed. The European Space Agency plans to investigate key technologies needed to make Space-Based Solar Power a working reality through its SOLARIS initiative. One such technology – wireless power transmission – was recently demonstrated in Germany to an audience of decision-makers from business and government. Credit: Airbus

Solar power could be gathered far away in space and transmitted wirelessly down to Earth to wherever it is needed. The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to investigate key technologies needed to make Space-Based Solar Power a working reality through its SOLARIS initiative. Recently in Germany, one of these technologies, wireless power transmission, was demonstrated to an audience of decision-makers from business and government.

The demonstration took place at Airbus’ X-Works Innovation Factory in Munich. Microwave beaming was used to transmit green energy between two points representing ‘Space’ and ‘Earth’ over a distance of 36 meters.

The received power was used to light up a model city and produce green hydrogen by splitting water. It even served to produce the world’s first wirelessly cooled 0% alcohol beer in a fridge before being served to the watching audience.

To prepare Europe for future decision-making on Space-Based Solar Power, ESA has proposed a preparatory program for Europe, initially named SOLARIS, for the upcoming ESA Council at Ministerial Level in November 2022. Space-based solar power is a potential source of clean, affordable, continuous, abundant, and secure energy. This basic concept has been given fresh urgency by the need for new sources of clean and secure energy to aid Europe’s transition to a Net Zero carbon world by 2050. If Europe wants to benefit from this game-changing capability then we need to start investing now. Credit: ESA – European Space Agency

For a working version of a Space-Based Solar Power system, solar power satellites in geostationary orbit would harvest sunlight on a permanent 24/7 basis and then convert it into low-power density microwaves to safely beam down to receiver stations on Earth. The physics involved means that these satellites would have to be large, on the order of several kilometers in size, to generate the equivalent power of a typical nuclear power station. The same would be true for the collecting ‘rectennas’ down on Earth’s surface.

Technical advancements in areas such as in-space manufacturing and robotic assembly, low-cost high-efficiency photovoltaics, high-power electronics, and radio frequency beamforming would be required to achieve this vision. Further research to confirm the effects of low-power microwaves on human and animal health are benign and compatibility with aircraft and satellites would also be undertaken.

ESA’s SOLARIS – being proposed to Europe’s space ministers at the Agency’s Council at Ministerial Level on November 22-23 – will research these technologies, to allow Agency Member States to make an informed choice on future implementation of Space-Based Solar Power as a new source of clean, always-on ‘baseload’ power supplementing existing renewable power sources, helping Europe to attain Net Zero by mid-century.

In addition, any breakthroughs achieved in these areas will also benefit many other spaceflight endeavors as well as terrestrial applications.

13 Comments on "ESA SOLARIS: Wireless Power Beamed Down From Space"

  1. If they can ever do away with the laws of physics and ignore the attenuation formula of 20(log) frequency [microwave] + 20(log) distance [long way from earth to orbit)it might work. The laws of physics, though. Probably not going to be changed. A test running microwaves across 100 ft isn’t the same as outer space to earth. What are you going to do with people finding themselves in the huge power densities required for power generation? Cook them? What about planes flying through the power beam? Birds?

  2. Why not build solar panels on earth where it is easier to maintain? You still have the same problems of transmission and receipt and solar power currently abundantly reaches earth.

  3. China is already way ahead of the game on this. You know why? Cause they run their s*** like a bizznes not a kindergarten.

  4. When you can set up a solar panels on earth…( and the sun projects the most intense heat down here on earth)…why bother with all the technology to do exactly the same thing in space..??

  5. If you recall, there was a James Bond movie with this premise and it did not end well… if humans could be un-greedy about resources we’d last a lot longer on this planet.

  6. They want this beamed energy to be about the same as the output of a nuclear reactor. The average reactor puts out about a gigawatt of power. A microwave beam of that magnitude would be a formidable weapon, so just how good an idea would this be if Russia or China proposed it?

  7. Tesla was trying to do that for ages get free energy transmitted through the air for free for intire World and they killed him and took all his research

  8. Way cheaper to just harvest the ionosphere. A few bucks less and a much bigger harvesting system that already exists. Yes Nikola Tesla invented the first solar electric system, but we still haven’t replicated it.

  9. notsurprisedmuch | November 17, 2022 at 11:11 am | Reply

    Sending gigawatts of microwaves through the atmosphere, what could possibly go wrong?

  10. We’d be SO MUCH better off if we just stay with fossil fuels until we economically and intelligently transition.
    We could ELIMINATE all this human deprivation and suffering of limited oil, high gas prices, food shortages, fertilizer shortages etc. while we slowly and methodically transition to NUCLEAR and hydrogen fuel cell technology.
    With modern technology, coal and oil are VERY clean burning and nuclear is one of the safest and most efficuent.
    WAKE UP!! We DONT need to change the world by next week!!!

  11. Bilal Ahmad Yatoo | November 18, 2022 at 9:11 am | Reply

    Hi nice to see all this, i many times ask for review my long distance wireless power transmission using my simple and small circuit. No one is interested so i again request for my inovation implementation.

  12. How about maximizing on the clear solar panels that are coming out? Stackable solar panels gets you triple the power for the space of one.

  13. Dr Peter Glaser was working on Solar Power Collection satellites back in the 70’s. Was deemed too expensive when fossil fuel was $10/barrel. It was, however, thought to be more efficient than ground collecting because of the ability to collect in space 24/7, with no day/night or weather blocking problems up there. Early reports showed that even the first experiments showed something like an 80% efficiency rate when converting microwaves to DC power, with only “a few degrees of temp rising of birds flying through the beam”.
    -“The High Frontier” by Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill.

    …and Max, we might not need to be in such an all-fired hurry to get this stuff done, if we hadn’t sat on our asses to perfect these kinds of alternatives back in the 70’s when we first saw the writing on the wall for the end of plenty for fossil fuels. But just like a lot of things, we humans wait till something’s an emergency before we plan how to fix it.

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