“Bouncing” Microwaves off Orbiting Satellites for 24hr Clean Energy Coverage
The wireless distribution of Solar and Gravity Power is possible by transmitting a microwave beam from the ground to a constellation of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and “bouncing” multiple microwave beams back to a mesh network of global collection points on earth: Why aren’t we doing it?
It is a new concept and the mechanics need to be tested and the quantity of electricity able to be harvested needs to be confirmed, or handed over to the science community to enhance, and the ground mesh network, containing people data, is a platform based on evolving distributed ledger technology and is in the Beta testing phase. However, it must be in place prior to the energy and satellite providers offering their products to the market to give the right financial incentive.
From a feasibility perspective, Starlink, OneWeb and Telesat all have a strategy to create a ground mesh network for their constellation of satellites to enable internet connection. Why can’t the same principle apply to delivering power to earth to provide clean energy for a global workforce?
In this article we will examine two reasons why the world still waits and describe how apparent obstacles can easily be overcome:
Firstly, there is a fear of radiation that prevents the masses from embracing microwave transmission from space: But that is exactly what happens when we take out our mobile phone or turn on our GPS tracking device. To quote the Emrod company founder Greg Kushnir: “For some reason, there’s a cognitive gap for people. They have no problem believing they can pick up a phone — which uses electromagnetic waves sent via satellite — to communicate with people all over the world and send information. But it’s hard for people to accept you can do the same with energy, and that in terms of the physics, it’s not that different”.
The diagram below illustrates the section of the electromagnetic spectrum that is utilised by microwave beaming for downlink and uplink interaction between earth and satellites.
Whether consciously or subconsciously we are exposed to electromagnetic radiation every day. We can either stay out of sunlight altogether or use the science to make the planet a better place and take advantage of the positives solar power offers. Acceptance by the masses is critical to create a mesh network of ground receiving points for satellite microwave transmissions. The economic reality is the ground mesh network must be in place before companies invest in satellite power beaming or there is a strong likelihood that without a marketplace to sell their product they will go broke, as happened with early satellite internet delivery pioneers.
Mesh networks can be created by partitioning the planet into a series of grids along satellite orbit paths described in detail further on in this article. Because satellites paths will take them over several different countries during an earth orbit there is a political challenge as well as financial, satellite congestion and a user acceptance challenge.
Secondly, there is an issue about what orbit the satellites should use to deliver the best outcome for potential business and personal uses, such as Satellite Broadband Internet, Orbital Edge Computing (for Internet of Things), Wireless Power Transmission for gravitational energy, and Space Based Solar Power. There are three choices, each with its limitations. The further from earth a satellite is positioned the greater the earth’s surface is covered by their electromagnetic beaming footprint, illustrated in the diagram below.
There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each option. For example, GEO (Geostationary or Geosynchronous Orbit) has a wide coverage but is too far from earth to deliver low latency (fast speed) access and IoT (Internet of Things) response and precision microwave beaming. MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) improves on some of the GEO short comings but does not offer uninterrupted power delivery and is expensive to transport and deploy satellites. That leaves LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and that is where all the commercial activity is taking place. However, it is not without problems and this article outlines how the problems can be overcome and introduces a solution to one of the most important problems: The earth’s shadow when it interrupts the “line of sight” for microwave beaming.
“Line of Sight” Microwave Beaming
There are problems associated with the continuous supply of solar energy when using “line of sight” transmission. LEO satellites beaming solar energy spend much of their orbiting time in darkness as they circle the earth. For the premises that have installed solar photovoltaic (PV) panels there is an interruption to power supply when it is night, cloud coverage, or atmospheric pollution blocks the sun’s rays. Consumers still rely on the main grid to make up the gap and that may still involve a fossil fuel supply source.
LEO orbit speed and distance from earth represents a problem. The satellites may be around 1,000 km from earth and orbiting the earth every 90 minutes, with a limited time to delivery data or power as they pass over the ground station collection point, usually at speeds of 7 km per second relative to the ground. Ground receiving points do not have much time to locate the satellite and harvest the electromagnetic wave to convert into electricity.
Special Satellite Connection Antennas and Constellation Size
Rather than connect to individual satellite beams phased array antennas can scan the skies to locate the satellite and lock into their beam. Based on the process presented in this article there will always be a constellation of satellites in the “line of sight” to harvest microwave beams 24 hours per day and the range of the satellite beam is approximately 1,000km, shown in the diagram below. That means there would need to be approximately 1,600 satellites circling the earth to achieve full coverage based on the beams’ range. There are almost that many satellites currently in orbit or approved to go into orbit.
The Earth Shadow Problem
The alternative to rooftop solar PV panels is Space Based Solar Power, but the problem remains that the satellites may still not have continuous direct access to sunlight as they orbit the earth and therefore they do not have power to deliver and there is a gap in transmission. At present the internet satellite companies use ground station gateways to communicate with satellite and provide customers with a hybrid broadband service. However, there are insufficient ground stations worldwide to support a mesh network of orbiting satellites.
The ground equivalent of satellite mesh networks in space needs to be in place to capture microwave transmissions. Current ground stations are sparsely placed and relay satellite communication to ground network installations to track satellite movement, but not in a truly distributed architecture. The ground stations need to be decentralised, micro-sized and communicate directly with satellite constellations over an extensive mesh network: They cannot be centralised data centres. Peer-to-peer networks of collection points with consumer data needs to be in position. This is where the emerging ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) platforms come into play, with an open plug in application framework, for energy and communication management products.
Rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are the most popular option for harvesting sunlight but they experience the same earth shadow gap problem. Currently, ground distributed Gravity Power can fill the gap, but there is a problem there too: Gravity generated energy relies on poles and wires to distribute their power. Without wireless power transmission the full financial benefit of gravitational energy is not achieved. Apart from cost there is a negative perception of towers required for power distribution and the environmental impact they cause.
If space based wireless delivery capability for Gravity Power is proven to be possible then it can fill the gap for 24hr power availability by transmitting and “bouncing” microwave beams off orbiting satellites. The diagram below illustrates the overall process:
The simple solution suggested introduces a reverse thought process to conventional thinking regarding the sequence of transmission of electromagnetic radiation. The concept introduces a two-way process whereby electromagnetic waves are initially generated FROM earth, rather than to earth. The waves are “bounced” back from space TO earth using an inductor to create a wireless power transmission process and distribute cost efficient electricity to a global community. A mesh network of satellites in space becomes the distribution source.
To be successful there must be an energy source available to create gravity power, plus a supporting infrastructure to deliver the following three important features:
(1) The beaming of microwaves from energy produced from gravity forces within disused mine shafts or similar structures.
(2) The “bouncing” of microwaves back to earth from a series of orbiting satellites with intelligent software to identify target points.
(3) The ground mesh network of energy collection points (or user terminals), utilising nodes on a Web3 distributed ledger ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) platform, to receive microwaves and convert into DC (Direct Current) electricity and input direct to household or input data to microgrid management software.
At present energy storage devices, such as nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion batteries, are commonly used to provide an option to main grid connection to close the solar energy “gap”. The battery storage solution is far from satisfactory and there are other environmental issues.
The use of gravity is not new but has been mainly used in the past for generating hydro power as water is pumped up to elevated heights and the downward gravitational flow turns large turbines to generate power. Companies around the world are looking to use abandoned mine shafts and heavy weights to achieve the same energy output for a fraction of the investment needed.
The Scottish energy company Gravitricity is using old mine shafts and believe that 24 weights weighting a combined 12,000 tonnes when dropped down the mine shafts will generate enough energy to supply 63,000 homes. The process could be activated on demand and used at the time required. The Swiss-based Energy Vault is another company using a similar technique. They are using blocks weighing up to 35 ton and large towers to generate gravity power. Other companies involved in gravity power include: Gravity Power, Gravity Storage, and Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES)
The Australian company Green Gravity is another player in the Gravity Power business. They have identified 175 areas of interest, including the Hunter Valley, to use their technique. Gravity Power is claimed to be half the price of lithium-ion batteries and can be used on demand to fill the void caused by intermittent solar supply.
Disused Mines in Australia
The map below illustrates the number of mines that have ceased to operate in Australia and represent a potential Gravity Power site. Of particular interest is the Hunter Valley region. In the map below a grid with coordinates 0/28 is identified. The grid is part of a hypothetical global grid structure. Actual orbital paths for USA satellites is controlled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and orbital slots are allocated, but for the purposes of illustrating mesh network coverage I am using a hypothetical grid structure.
Satellites passing over the 0/28 grid receive beamed gravity power and they “bounce” back microwaves to distribute the power wirelessly, thereby eliminating poles and wires. The diagram below illustrates how the beam span provides coverage as the constellation of satellites moves over the Hunter Valley.
The described process creates a new business model for gravitational energy producers: Unless there is an established ground network of clients, and a database containing their geolocation details, gravity power will not be a viable economic solution.
The solution involves setting up such a network with a DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) provider and an ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) platform. The platform will contain employee and company data to authenticate participants and store details of energy usage for load planning and geolocation data (containing coordinates of target(s)) for precise power delivery.
Global Mesh Network
The same principle used for the Hunter Valley example applies to every country. The diagram below illustrates how the same network grid structure can be applied.
The next challenge is to identify countries along the orbit path and gain their involvement and create the electricity user database. The diagram below illustrates the process of identifying countries along the orbit path.
To reach out to potential electricity users in all parts of the world would be a massive marketing challenge. However, a large percentage of households would have at least one member in the workforce. That member’s company could possibly belong to a Human Resource (HR) association. Competitive Edge Technology (CET) and IHRIM (International Association for HR Information Management) formed a partnership in 2020 to engage the HR associations around the world in discussions relating to emerging technologies that will impact the industry. The map below shows the countries that have an association that could potentially belongs to a ground mesh network and participate in the hosting of technology platforms and provide a governance structure to ensure the integrity of membership and transactional activity.
Many of these countries would be along the same orbit path of satellite constellations and can benefit from shared energy resources, especially in the Europe region.
Emerging Space Mesh Networks
There needs to be an alignment between the mesh network set up for satellite orbit paths and a ground mesh network for collection points for both satellite internet and power beaming. The diagram below illustrates how a space mesh network could be constructed based on satellite orbit paths and the corresponding grids have been used in the hypothetical examples earlier to identify countries impacted.
Orbiting satellites’ mesh networks planned, or currently operational, by companies such as WebOne, SpaceX and Telesat, encounter black out problems when “line of sight” is lost for broadband delivery similar to the solar beaming problem mentioned earlier. To overcome the problem a series of satellite constellations are involved in a sequential orbiting formation to ensure “line of sight” is maintained at all times by at least one satellite in the constellation and use a communication method such as SDR (Software-Defined Radio) between satellites. Identical smart software needs to be installed in all the satellites to identify ground collection points, ensure coordination and to simultaneously respond to algorithmic changes in real time.
Small satellites, or CubeSats, are potential members of satellite constellations to reduce launching costs and still deliver the features of larger satellites for internet and power transmission.
Ground Mesh Networks and DLT Architecture
The choice of the right technology for an ESG platform is critical for success. Already the energy market and carbon credit trading market are building on blockchain platforms such as Solana, Ethereum, etc. Blockchain is a member of the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) family, along with Hashtag, Holochain, DAG (Directed Acrylic Graph), etc. DLT products are often referred to as blockchain but there is a very big difference when it comes to consensus mechanisms and hosting methods. The product with the most potential is Holochain and that is what CET is evaluating to convert their low code customisable ESG platform to. Red Grid, an energy technology company has developed their product on the platform and, if successful, others will no doubt follow.
The fundamental difference between existing HR applications and CET’s decentralised strategy is the architecture: Holochain applications can be deployed at the node level bringing component-based assembly and microservices design into play. Monolithic HR systems simply cannot be deployed in a distributed architecture with such granularity. Products like Workday, SAP, etc, were designed to run as SaaS solutions in data centres. With Web3, IoT and orbital edge computing, and HR components being deployed closest to the point of data collection, a new enterprise application architecture is emerging and now is a good time to make the transition to DLT style computing.
In the new architecture employee owned data will be the cornerstone and data relating to a person will allow decisions to be made by a person regarding access to their data and application integration. The record is portable and remains with the employee whenever they move to another employer. In that way access to data needed for electricity usage forecasting and short-term load planning can be given to a new employer or microgrid management team.
Holochain is an open framework that allows interoperability with the microgrid management and satellite tracking type applications that will emerge over the next twelve months. The open design will revolve around plug in applications that support the ground based mesh network structure. A space-based mesh network of satellites sending data from space require a similar mesh network of ground stations on earth to receive data and ensure a “line of sight” at all times. The main purpose for any ESG platforms in a Space Based Solar Power environment is to enable global coverage for satellites and support the modern internet backbone, such as proposed by Kepler Communications.
The Australian Proof of Concept for ground mesh network based on a ESG platform, if successful, will become a model for other countries to follow.
Earlier related articles from the author (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Shared Solar and Gravity Power Research and Articles
Optical rectenna (Wikipedia)