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NZ innovation could see electricity ‘beamed’ to homes

Image taken from: https://www.stuff.co.nz

A New Zealand start-up has developed a system which converts electricity into electro-magnetic waves that can be sent wirelessly to receivers to be converted back into electricity for use in homes and businesses.

The start-up focuses on developing revolutionary long-range wireless power transmission as an alternative to existing copper-based line technology. Their first client is Powerco, the largest lines company in NZ. It has also been attracting strong interest from overseas electricity distributors.

The founders believe that the technology could reduce humanity’s dependence on oil by making electric air travel and shipping possible, in the long term. However, the short-term plan is to be green lit to deliver power to New Zealand homes in remote locations and island communities. Furthermore, they also plan to provide emergency power when the power lines are down.

The New Zealand start-up’s prototype system was built with help from Callaghan Innovation in an Auckland laboratory that was also partly government funded.

Energy generation and storage methods have progressed tremendously over the last century, but energy transmission has remained virtually unchanged since Edison, Siemens, and Westinghouse first introduced electric networks based on copper wires 150 years ago.

Previous theory was built on the belief that energy comes to consumers as electricity over copper wires. People were confident that there had to be a better way but, until now, there were no viable alternatives.

Now antennae and receivers could help move electricity around the country. This would also be cheaper than building and maintaining expensive copper wire infrastructure and could provide an easy solution to getting remote communities onto the grid.

The distances power could be transmitted wirelessly depend on the size of antenna and receiver, and there must always be a clear line of sight between them. One such place the startup believed could benefit from the technology was Stewart Island, which depends on diesel generators for most of their electricity.

The New Zealand startup had not invented the technology and it has been around for a few decades. It was also being developed for military use in the US for keeping drones in perpetual flight. About 50 years ago Nasa kept a helicopter drone in the air with a beam of energy from the ground.

Some world-changing technologies, such as the internet, had made the leap from military use to civil society use. So the innovation was developing it for use outside of the military and space industries.

Other startups were also tasked to see whether the New Zealand startup’s technology could work alongside existing power networks.

They envisage using the technology to deliver electricity in remote places or to areas with tricky terrain.

There is also potential to use it to keep the lights on for our customers when we are doing maintenance on our existing infrastructure.

It may also be dangerous to keep the lights on for customers when the existing infrastructure is undergoing maintenance.

There is also an abundance of clean hydro, solar and wind energy around the world however, they are expensive and come with a range of challenges that come with delivering energy using traditional methods such as offshore wind farms or underwater cables.

The New Zealand startup will deliver a prototype in October before moving to a field trial next year.


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