The MAPLE experiment was able to wirelessly transfer collected solar power to receivers in space and direct energy to Earth.
A space solar power prototype has demonstrated its ability to wirelessly beam power through space and direct a detectable amount of energy toward Earth for the first time. The experiment proves the viability of tapping into a near-limitless supply of power in the form of energy from the sun from space.
Because solar energy in space isn’t subject to factors like day and night, obscuration by clouds, or weather on Earth, it is always available. In fact, it is estimated that space-based harvesters could potentially yield eight times more power than solar panels at any location on the surface of the globe.
“Through the experiments we have run so far, we received confirmation that MAPLE can transmit power successfully to receivers in space,” Co-Director of the Space-Based Solar Power Project, Dr. Ali Hajimiri, said in a statement. “We have also been able to program the array to direct its energy toward Earth, which we detected here at Caltech. We had, of course, tested it on Earth, but now we know that it can survive the trip to space and operate there.”
It is planned that SSPP will eventually consist of a constellation of modular spacecraft collecting sunlight, transforming it into electricity, and turning this into microwaves that are then beamed over vast distances, including back to Earth, where energy is needed. This could include regions of the globe currently poorly served by existing energy infrastructure.
“In the same way that the internet democratized access to information, we hope that wireless energy transfer democratizes access to energy,” Hajimiri concluded. “No energy transmission infrastructure will be needed on the ground to receive this power. That means we can send energy to remote regions and areas devastated by war or natural disaster.”
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