Japan, alongside its space agency JAXA, has dedicated years to the pursuit of beaming solar energy from space. In 2015, a significant breakthrough was achieved when JAXA scientists successfully transmitted 1.8 kilowatts of power, equivalent to powering an electric kettle, over a distance of more than 50 meters using wireless receivers. Now, Japan is on the verge of bringing this technology one step closer to reality.

According to Nikkei, a Japanese public-private partnership aims to initiate the beaming of solar energy from space as early as 2025. Led by Naoki Shinohara, a Kyoto University professor who has been actively involved in space-based solar energy research since 2009, the project intends to deploy a series of small satellites into orbit. These satellites will collect solar energy and attempt to transmit it to ground-based receiving stations located hundreds of miles away.

The concept of utilizing orbital solar panels and microwaves to transmit energy to Earth was initially proposed in 1968. Since then, several countries, including China and the United States, have invested time and resources into exploring this idea. The technology holds immense appeal due to the potential for an unlimited renewable energy supply from orbital solar arrays. In space, solar panels can efficiently gather energy regardless of the time of day, and the utilization of microwaves ensures that cloud coverage does not pose a hindrance. However, even if Japan successfully deploys a set of orbital solar arrays, the technology would still remain closer to the realm of science fiction than a practical reality. The production of an array capable of generating 1 gigawatt of power, equivalent to the output of a nuclear reactor, would cost approximately $7 billion using currently available technologies.

While the financial and technical challenges associated with large-scale implementation of orbital solar arrays are considerable, Japan’s continued efforts signify the nation’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of renewable energy. By pursuing this ambitious project, Japan aims to harness the potential of space-based solar energy, offering a tantalizing glimpse into a future where clean and sustainable power sources are readily available.

By Impact Lab