US researchers beam solar from space


From pv magazine USA

Space-based solar power has been studied for decades because, theoretically, it could tap into a virtually unlimited supply of solar energy in outer space. California Institute of Technology (Caltech) researchers estimate that solar from space could yield eight times more power than solar panels at any location on Earth’s surface, and in January, the Caltech Space Solar Power Project (SSPD) launched a prototype into orbit to beam power to Earth.

The SSPD deployed a constellation of modular spacecraft equipped with PV to collect sunlight, convert it to electricity, and then wirelessly transmit the electricity over long distances wherever it is needed. Caltech said the technology could be useful to remote areas that do not have supportive transmission infrastructure.

Wireless power transfer was demonstrated by Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment (MAPLE), developed at Caltech. It is one of three key technologies being tested by the Space Solar Power Demonstrator (SSPD-1), the first space-borne prototype from Caltech’s SSPP.

MAPLE includes lightweight microwave power transmitters driven by custom electronic chips that were built using low-cost silicon technologies. It uses the array of transmitters to beam the energy to desired locations.

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“Through the experiments we have run so far, we received confirmation that MAPLE can transmit power successfully to receivers in space,” said Ali Hajimiri, professor of electrical engineering and medical engineering and co-director of SSPP.

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In the June issue of pv magazine, due out on Friday, we turn the spotlight onto European solar with a comprehensive review of the state of the PV industry across the region’s key markets and a look at the legislation which aims to drive a solar rooftop boom. We also examine the difficulty of establishing a solar panel recycling industry in Australia, where industry backbiting isn’t helping matters.

“We have also been able to program the array to direct its energy toward Earth, which we detected here at Caltech,” said Hajimiri. “We had, of course, tested it on Earth, but now we know that it can survive the trip to space and operate there.”

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