Scientists at the US Department of Defense have successfully tested a solar panel capable of beaming electricity to any point on Earth from space — a milestone that could reshape the future of how we power our planet.
The size of a pizza box, the technology was designed by researchers at the Pentagon as a prototype for a future system to send electricity from space back to any point on Earth, including disaster areas and remote places without a connection to the grid.
As reported by CNN, the panel — known as a Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module (PRAM) — was first launched in May 2020, attached to an unmanned drone, to harness light from the sun to convert to electricity.
One of the advantages of placing the solar panel in space is that it would harness more powerful light, including blue waves diffused by the Earth’s atmosphere which, by the way, is also the reason why the sky is blue. “We’re getting a ton of extra sunlight in space just because of that,” said Paul Jaffe, a co-developer of the project.
According to Jaffe, the 12×12-inch panel is capable of producing about 10 watts of energy per transmission, enough to power a tablet computer. That may not seem like much, but scaling the project to multiple arrays with dozens of panels each, its success could revolutionize both how power is generated and distributed to remote areas around the globe.
“The unique advantage the solar power satellites have over any other source of power is this global transmissibility,” said Jaffe. “You can send power to Chicago and a fraction of a second later, if you need, send it instead to London or Brasilia.”