In the near future, satellites will beam down renewable energy to anyone who needs it

The idea could gather steam after a New Zealand-based company successfully demonstrated its wireless energy transmission.
Ameya Paleja
Emrod Power Beaming
Emrod Power Beaming

Courtesy of Emrod

The concept of a global energy grid isn't new and has been around for nearly a century. Nikola Tesla wanted everybody to be able to draw energy from such a grid, but it did not make business sense. Now, a recent demonstration from a company named Emrod may have found a way to power up the globe while still serving its business interests.

Auckland, New Zealand-based, Emrod has been in the wireless energy transfer business for over three years now. The company recently demonstrated its space-based solar power (SBSP) technology that it has developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus, a press release said. This paves the way for the company to plan its global energy grid that could decouple where energy is generated and where it is consumed.

How does the wireless energy transfer work?

The technology demonstration at Airbus's Munich Area Site consisted of a square phased-array transmitting and receiving antennae a little over six feet (1.92 m) in diameter. Using the frequency of 5.8 GHz, the demonstrator system beamed energy over a distance of 118 feet (36 m) and powered a model city, hydrogen electrolyzer, and a beer fridge, New Atlas reported.

With technology demonstrations out of the way, the company can now think of how it wants to deploy its systems on a larger scale. Emrod has a different view on how it will do this. Instead of using far-field systems that could potentially see energy losses of up to 20 percent if the receiving antenna is not big enough, Emrod wants to deploy them using a near-field approach.

The team uses a collimated beam with a phased array in this system, where its energy beam moves as if it were in a virtual wire. Emrod has achieved an energy transfer efficiency of 95 percent with this approach and has plans to bring it to 99 percent.

Deploying it from space

To create a wireless energy grid, Emrod would have to contend with the challenges of building its infrastructure over mountains and in the seas. However, with the privatization of space exploration, there is now a new approach to getting this done, setting up a constellation of satellites.

Emrod is currently in talks with space companies to explore this option and have the first of the test satellites in orbit within the next three years. If Emrod takes the International Space Station (ISS) and deploys its satellites at an altitude of 250-300 miles (400-500 km), then its antenna would have to be over 350 feet (108 m) wide. This would need the assembly of components in space, making it a tough challenge.

An alternative approach would be to let the satellites orbit at about 62 miles (100 km), and the size of the antenna needed would shrink to somewhere between 100-130 feet (30 - 40 m), making them much simpler to build and launch, New Atlas said in its report.

For now, the company is quite content with testing its technology on the ground and plans to deploy it commercially as early as 2024. While this happens, it also hopes it can convince people that such energy transfers are possible, even though they do this every day with their phones.

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