The dream of wireless power transmission is an old one. In 1890, everyone’s favorite electrical genius Nikola Tesla once proved he could power light bulbs from more than two miles away with a 140-foot Tesla coil in the 1890s – never mind that in doing so he burned out the dynamo at the local powerplant and plunged the entire town of Colorado Springs into a blackout.
But while Tesla’s attempt didn’t quite work out as planned, a startup in New Zealand believes it can be the one to realize Tesla’s dream of transmitting power wirelessly. The startup, Emrod, has managed to convince a major power distributor to have a crack at going wireless in a commercial capacity.
So, why is this so exciting?
Emrod sees wireless transmission as a key enabling technology for renewable power, which is often generated far from where it’s needed. This kind of system could be terrific for getting the products of offshore and remote renewable energy generation into the city grids without the need for giant storage batteries and the like.
The system uses a transmitting antenna, a series of relays, and a receiving rectenna (a rectifying antenna capable of converting microwave energy into electricity). And unlike Tesla’s dream of globally-accessible free power, the power here is beamed directly between specific points that are within each other’s line of sight.
Emrod says it works in any atmospheric conditions, including rain, fog and dust, and the distance of transmission is limited only by a line of sight between each relay, giving it the potential to transmit power thousands of kilometers, at a fraction of the infrastructure costs, maintenance costs and environmental impact a wired solution imposes.
Going forward, Emrod will spend several months in lab testing before moving to a field trial. If that turns out to be a success, we could be seeing wireless energy transmission sooner than we ever expected.