Wireless power transmitted from space

Solar energy has accumulated far away in space, seen here beaming wirelessly back to Earth where it is needed. The European Space Agency plans to study the key technologies needed to make space solar power an operational reality through its SOLARIS initiative. One such technology, wireless power transmission, was recently demonstrated in Germany to an audience of business and government decision makers. Credit: Airbus

Solar energy could be collected far away in space and transmitted wirelessly to Earth where it is needed. The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to investigate the key technologies needed to make space solar power an operational reality through its SOLARIS initiative. Recently in Germany, one such technology, wireless power transmission, was demonstrated to an audience of business and government decision makers.

The demonstration took place at Airbus’ X-Works innovation factory in Munich. Microwave radiation was used to transmit green energy between two points representing “space” and “earth” over a distance of 36 meters.

The energy received was used to light up a model city and produce green hydrogen by separating water. It was even used to produce the world’s first 0% alcohol beer that was wirelessly chilled in a refrigerator before being served to the public.


To prepare Europe for future decision-making on space-based solar energy, ESA proposed a Preparatory Program for Europe, initially named SOLARIS, for the next ESA Council at Ministerial level in November 2022. Space solar power is a potential source of clean, affordable, continuous, abundant and secure energy. This core concept has been given new urgency due to the need for new clean and secure energy sources to facilitate Europe’s transition to a zero-carbon world by 2050. If Europe is to benefit from this capability revolutionary, 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 continuously 24/7 and then convert it to micro -waves at low power density to transmit them safely to receiving stations on Earth. The physics involved means that these satellites would have to be large, on the order of several kilometres, to generate the equivalent power of a typical nuclear power plant. It would be the same for the collecting “rectennas” on the surface of the Earth.

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 needed to realize this vision. Further research to confirm that the effects of low power microwaves on human and animal health are mild and compatibility with aircraft and satellites would also be undertaken.

ESA’s SOLARIS – proposed to European space ministers at the Agency’s Council at ministerial level on 22 and 23 November – will carry out research on these technologies, in order to enable the Agency’s Member States to make a informed choice on the future implementation of space-based solar power as a new, clean, always-available source of energy, complementing existing renewable energy sources, helping Europe reach Net Zero by mid-2020. century.

Furthermore, any breakthroughs achieved in these areas will also benefit many other spaceflight projects as well as terrestrial applications.

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