The New Japanese Mini Space-Based Solar Power Plant That Will Beam Electricity Back to Earth

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Japan’s space-based solar-power station is expected to begin testing next year, in a project meant to help the world reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and thwart the growing menace of climate change.

The idea of space-based solar power generation first came in 1968, but back then it was way too expensive to be viable. Now technology advancements have gone far enough to make this dream a reality in the near future.

As part of the OHISAMA project (Japanese for Sun), the mini space-based solar power plant will wirelessly transmit energy from low Earth orbit. It will be a small satellite (weighing about 180 kilograms) that will transmit about 1 kilowatt of power from an altitude of 400 kilometers. While the planned demonstration is not anywhere close to the scale required for commercial use, it is still a significant step forward.

According to a representative from Japan Space Systems research institute, the spacecraft will use a 2 square meters photovoltaic panel to charge a battery, which will then transform the energy into microwaves that will be beamed towards an antenna on Earth. Due to the extremely fast traveling speed of the spacecraft (approximately 28,000 kph), the antennas on Earth will have to be spread over a distance of 40 kilometers.

The researchers report to have successfully demonstrated wireless transmission of solar power on the ground from a stationary source, and plan to conduct the transmission from the aircraft in December of this year.

Unlike Earth-based solar plants affected by weather conditions and nighttime, space-based solar power plants can collect energy from the sun continuously and without interruptions, ensuring a consistent and uninterrupted power supply that overcomes the limitations of daylight and weather fluctuations on Earth.