Japan and its space agency, JAXA, have spent decades attempting to make it possible to transmit solar energy from space. In 2015, JAXA scientists effectively transmitted more than 50 meters and 1.8 kilowatts of power, enough energy to operate an electric saucepan, to a wireless receiver. Now, Japan is on the verge of bringing the technology one step closer to fruition.
As early as 2025, according to Nikkei, a Japanese public-private partnership will endeavor to transmit solar energy from orbit. The initiative, led by Naoki Shinohara, a professor at Kyoto University who has been researching space-based solar energy since 2009, will endeavor to place a number of small satellites in orbit. Then, they will attempt to transmit the solar energy to ground-based receiving stations hundreds of miles away.
In 1968, the use of orbital solar panels and microwaves to transmit energy to Earth was first proposed. Since then, several nations, including China and the United States, have devoted time and resources to the concept. Because orbital solar arrays represent a potentially limitless renewable energy source, the technology is appealing. In space, solar panels can collect energy regardless of the time of day, and by using microwaves to transmit the energy they generate, clouds are not an issue. Even if Japan were to effectively deploy a set of orbital solar arrays, the technology would remain more science fiction than reality. Using currently available technology, it would cost approximately $7 billion to produce a solar array capable of producing 1 gigawatt of power, or roughly the output of one nuclear reactor.