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- In New Zealand, the government is sponsoring a wireless electricity startup‘s work and testing.
- The system involves shaped microwave beams that pass through relays, like repeaters.
- Nikola Tesla did the first air-power experiments 12o years ago, but copper wire superseded everything else.
An energy startup named Emrod says it’s bringing wireless electricity to New Zealand, more than a century after Nikola Tesla first demonstrated it was possible. Like the best-performing satellite internet connections, Emrod’s link only needs a clear line of sight.
In a statement, Emrod founder Greg Kushnir says he was motivated by New Zealand’s particular set of skills, à la Liam Neeson in Taken.
“We have an abundance of clean hydro, solar, and wind energy available around the world but there are costly challenges that come with delivering that energy using traditional methods, for example, offshore wind farms or the Cook Strait here in New Zealand requiring underwater cables which are expensive to install and maintain.”
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By eliminating the need for long stretches of traditional copper wiring, Emrod says it can bring power to more difficult terrain and places that just can’t afford a certain level of physical infrastructure. There could be environmental ramifications as well, since many places that are off the grid end up using diesel generators, for example.
Right now, Emrod is testing over a “tiny” long distance—sending “a few watts” back and forth about 130 feet, Kushnir tells New Atlas. Line of sight is important because the technology relies on a clear, contained beam from one point to the next.
“Energy is transmitted through electromagnetic waves over long distances using Emrod’s proprietary beam shaping, metamaterials and rectenna technology,” Emrod explains.
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The “rectenna” turns magnetic waves into electricity. A square element mounted on a pole acts as the pass-through point that keeps electricity beaming along, and a broader surface area catches the entire wave, so to speak. The beam is surrounded by a low-power laser fence so it won’t zap passing birds or passenger vehicles. If there’s ever an outage, Emrod says it can drive out a truck-mounted rectenna to make up for any missing relay legs.
Typically, technology like this would seem implausible because of issues like the loss of signal fidelity over the transmission through the air then through a series of mediating technologies. But Emrod’s relay technology, which it says “refocuses the beam,” doesn’t use any power, and loses almost none.
Kushnir tells New Atlas:
“The efficiency of all the components we’ve developed are pretty good, close to 100 percent. Most of the loss is on the transmitting side. We’re using solid state for the transmitting side, and that’s essentially the same electronic elements you can find in any radar system, or even your microwave at home. Those are at the moment limited to around 70-percent efficiency. But there’s a lot of development going into it, mainly driven by communications, 5G and so on.”
The project is helped by New Zealand’s electric utilities and the government.
“The prototype received some government funding and was designed and built in Auckland in cooperation with Callaghan Innovation,” Emrod says on its site, referring to the New Zealand government’s “innovation agency.” “It has received a Royal Society Award nomination, and New Zealand’s second largest electricity distribution company, Powerco, will be the first to test Emrod technology. “
Kushnir says the distance and power load will, at first, be fairly low—sending a few kilowatts over shorter distances within New Zealand. But, he says, the hypothetical limit for distance and power load will scale up to almost unfathomable amounts. All Emrod has to do is make bigger rectennas.
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