Nikola Tesla’s grand vision for wireless electricity, explained and experimented a century ago, could become reality as wireless power startup Emrod is developing technology to transmit high-power electricity safely over long distances without the the need for physical cables or connectors.
1. Electromagnetic beam
New-Zealand-based energy startup Emrod has followed the lessons from Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla and is figuring out how to make wireless electricity a reality. The Kiwi firm explained the process — electricity will be converted into an electromagnetic beam between two antennas a few hundred meters apart at the site which is expected to be running by the end of June. Emrod went on explaining that all they need is a clear line of sight to transfer the electricity wirelessly.
Electromagnetic waves will be sent using metamaterials and rectenna technology, Emrod said. With the rectenna technology, the magnetic waves are converted into electricity. A square-shaped element set on a pole is where the electricity passes through to continue the beam-formation. As the wireless electricity beams through, a broad surface “catches” the wave.
The company is currently achieving 95% efficiency through air — which is said to be more efficient that wires — and on the transmission side, it’s “about 70-75%, pushing 80%”.
When that [system] goes out into the field, it will be the first commercial long-range power transmission system in the world.Greg Kushnir, Emrod’s Founder and CEO
The exact location of the site, however, has not been revealed as well as the amount being invested in it.
2. Abundant renewable energy
Kushnir pointed out New Zealand’s abundant clean energy sources — solar, hydro, or wind energy — but noted that the installation costs often skyrocket, blocking the possibility of bringing certain infrastructures to remote physical locations. Kushnir mentioned the offshore wind farms near the Cook Strait, as an example for the cost of infrastructure deployment, saying they require underwater cable, that are very costly to install and maintain.
Despite the technical challenges, Emrod’s technology has a huge range of potential applications — from connecting remote communities to the electricity grid, to enabling greater uptake of sustainable energy from wind and solar farms, to powering electric shipping and aviation.
3. Nikola Tesla’s legacy
Kushnir said power beaming has been around since the days of Nikola Tesla, who was born in the 1850s. “Tesla introduced it to the world, but the technology wasn’t quite there. The vision was there, but not the ability to execute it,” he said.
What has changed significantly in that regard is readily available computation power, and the materials we can come up with, build and manipulate.Greg Kushnir, Emrod’s Founder and CEO
Tesla’s vision for wireless electricity involved the concept of transmitting electrical power wirelessly over long distances, without the need for physical cables. He believed that through his proposed system, known as the Wardenclyffe Tower and built in 1901, he could provide free and accessible energy to the world.
4. Government support
Emrod has worked with Callaghan Innovation from its earliest stages to bring its innovation to life, accessing the agency’s R&D expertise, grants and connections. The wireless power company has also partnered with Powerco, one of New Zealand’s largest electricity distributors, in the development of an indoor prototype system.
Callaghan Innovation has been critical to Emrod.Greg Kushnir, Emrod’s Founder and CEO
“We’re the sort of business that doesn’t really fit the mould for venture capitalists, which is traditionally how technology gets commercialised. Without Callaghan Innovation’s support, it wouldn’t have been feasible to advance this startup in New Zealand.”
Kushnir said there’s a lot of interest in the project coming from all over the world – including oil and gas, mining, space, and government sectors. “But the strongest [interest] that we’re feeling at the moment is from Europe, where you can see an increased sense of urgency to facilitate the energy transition.”