A New Zealand startup has developed a method for transmitting power safely and wirelessly over long distances without the use of copper wire and is working to implement it with the country’s second largest electricity distributor.
The dream of wireless power transmission is far from new. The genius Nikola Tesla once proved that as early as the 1890s he could power light bulbs from a distance of more than two kilometers using a Tesla coil — not to mention that in doing so he burned a dynamo at a local power plant and submerged the entire city of Colorado. Springs in blackout.
Tesla’s dream was to place huge towers around the world that could transmit power wirelessly to anywhere on the globe, powering homes, businesses, industries, and even giant electric ships on the ocean. Investor J.P. Morgan famously killed the idea with one question: «Where can I put the meter?»
It took 120 years, but the New Zealand company Emrod finally convinced a major distributor to use wireless power commercially. Powerco, New Zealand’s second largest distributor, is investing in Emrod, whose technology is much more efficient in moving large amounts of electricity between any two points that can be connected with a line-of-sight relay.
“We’re interested to see if Emrod’s technology can complement established ways of delivering power,” said Nicholas Vessio, Network Transformation Manager at Powerco. «We envision using it to deliver electricity to remote locations or through areas with difficult terrain.»
Emrod currently has a working prototype of the device, but the company will build another one for Powerco with delivery plans by October, then spend several months in lab testing before moving on to field testing. The prototype device would be capable of delivering «only a few kilowatts» of power, but could easily be scaled up. “We can use exactly the same technology to transmit 100 times more power over much longer distances,” said Emrod founder and serial entrepreneur Greg Kushnir. «Wireless systems using Emrod technology can transmit any amount of power.»
The system uses a transmitting antenna, a series of relays, and a receiving rectenna (a rectifier antenna capable of converting microwave energy into electricity). Each of these components just looks like big squares at the poles. Its beams use non-ionizing industrial, scientific and medical radio spectrum, including frequencies commonly used in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Unlike Tesla’s worldwide dream of free electricity, the power here is radiated directly between certain points, with no radiation around the beam, and the «low-frequency safety laser curtain» immediately cuts off the transmission of energy before any object, such as a bird, drone, or helicopter, may fall into the transmission field. This time there will be no difficulty in determining the location of the counter.
Emrod says the transmitter works in all atmospheric conditions, including rain, fog and dust, and the transmission distance is limited only by the line-of-sight between each relay, giving it the ability to transmit electricity thousands of miles without unnecessary infrastructure costs, maintenance costs and environmental impact.
The company views wireless transmission as a key technology for renewable energy, which is often generated far from where it is needed. Such a system could be great for delivering offshore and remote renewable energy generation products to city grids without the need for giant batteries, substations and the like.
It will also be useful for some unplanned outages. Any truck can be equipped with a rectenna platform and then moved to the relay’s line of sight to create a temporary wireless connection to the network.