More than a billion people around the world have no electricity in their houses; millions more receive poor and inadequate supplies. Most often political but sometimes, heavy price tags and high installation costs are the main reasons behind this crisis. However, the worst when installation costs skyrocket and at times it’s even impossible to bring certain infrastructures to remote physical locations. For example, the offshore wind farms near the Cook Strait, New Zealand require 40km underwater cable, which costs $150m i.e., $3m per kilometer. But someone a century back had already thought outside of the box — getting the wires out of the picture entirely, so-called “wireless electricity.”
The History of Wireless Electricity
In 1901, Nikola Tesla began working on a large high-voltage wireless energy transmission station called the Wardenclyffe Tower which was a wireless prototype transmitter for a “World Wireless System.” This prototype was supposed to broadcast both information and power worldwide. Tesla even demonstrated his technology to investors, but they pulled out and the facility was never completed.
Nikola Tesla is considered one of the most influential scientists ever. His visions were motivated by altruism and providing a benefit to all of humanity, not just those who can afford it. Through the World Wireless System, he envisioned helping the world by providing extremely low-cost, or even free, electricity.
Vision Coming to Fruition
Over a century ago, what Nikola Tesla first explained is now all set to be a reality. An energy startup from New Zealand, Emrod, has figured out how to make wireless electricity a reality. They explained that all they would need is a clear line of sight to perform the task. Emrod’s founder Fred Kushnir said that the world has an abundance of clean hydro, solar, and wind energy available but they face costly challenges while delivering. Emrod plans to replace the need for copper wiring with electromagnetic waves over long stretches of land. This would help secluded and remote places to access affordable wireless electricity to places.
With wireless electricity, Emrod can fulfill Tesla’s desire to bring energy to those who cannot afford the infrastructure or those who live in difficult terrain. The installation of wireless electricity will help such remote places, which often rely on diesel generators or other fossil fuels for their electricity. The technology will remove the need for these stations and help the environment by reducing such harmful technologies.
How Wireless Electricity will be Transmitted?
Emrod sends electromagnetic waves via beam shaping, metamaterials, and rectenna technology. Rectenna technology converts magnetic waves onto electricity. A square-shaped element set on a pole to let electricity passes through to continue the beam-formation. As the wireless electricity beams through, a broad surface is needed to catch the waves. Emrod is testing/sending only a few watts over a “tiny” 130 feet long distance for now. The technology needs a straight and clear line of sight to work as the electricity travels as a beam from the source to the receiver. Scaling-up to send limitless amounts of energy over long distances can be done, hypothetically, by making larger rectennas.
Today, Emrod uses beams in the ISM (Industrial, Scientific, and Medical) band with frequencies commonly used in WiFi, Bluetooth, and RFID. Point-to-point transmission means that power is beamed directly between two points. High voltage wire transmission emits harmful radiation but the rectennas beam doesn’t. Also, the low power laser fence ensures that the transmission beam immediately shuts down before any bird gets electrocuted.
The Future is Wireless
“Wireless Electricity” seems questionable as it may lose the signal fidelity over the transmission through the air. But Emrod’s relay technology claims it “refocuses the beam,” doesn’t use any power, and loses almost none. Talking about power outages, Emrod has the option of truck-mounted rectennas that can be driven out to put in place in case a relay leg is missing.
The efficiency of all Emrod’s components is considerable, coming to nearly 100%. Emrod plans to use solid-state for the transmitting side as most of the power loss occurs on this side. This is similar to the electronic elements usually found in radar systems which will bring down the efficiency to 70%. But new technologies are being developed daily, mainly driven by communications, 5G and so on. Chances are people who can soon get wireless electricity directly to their homes, without any loss from the source.
Emrod’s website mentions: “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.”
It’s been nearly 8 decades since Nikola Tesla died, his work is still helping companies like Emrod to make the world a better place. While every generation is astonished by the advancement of technology, few generations have predicted technological advancements so far before they happened, and the accuracy with which Tesla did is mind-boggling.