Researchers at the American Caltech report that they have successfully transmitted solar energy collected from space-based solar panels to a receiver here on Earth, making them the first in the world to do so.
The project at Caltech is called the Space Solar Power Demonstrator (SSPD-1) and includes a satellite that was launched into space earlier this year. The collected solar energy has been transmitted to Earth and another receiver in space using a transmitter called the Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment (MAPLE).
Space Solar Power Project co-director Ali Hajimiri said in a press release:
“Through the experiments we have run so far, we received confirmation that MAPLE can transmit power successfully to receivers in space. 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.“–caltech.edu
Caltech is far from the only one experimenting with collecting solar energy in space and beaming it to Earth or other receivers in space. The advantage of collecting solar energy directly in space instead of waiting for it to reach Earth is that energy can be collected around the clock, and the collection is independent of the weather conditions here on Earth.
However, whether profitability can be achieved in such projects is still a question that remains to be answered. Here two video clips from Caltech showcasing more of the SSPD-1 project and explaining how energy can be wirelessly transferred over long distances.