Nearly a year ago, Hurricanes Harvey and Maria devastated Houston and Puerto Rico, respectively.
While there was plenty of damage done to private property and public infrastructure, one of the most widespread effects of the storms was loss of power.
In Texas, more than 300,000 people lost power in the aftermath of Harvey. In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria created the largest blackout in U.S. history, losing an estimated 3.4 billion customer hours of electricity service.
With the hurricane season upon us now–and 11,000 Puerto Ricans still without power as of June 1–fears of new storms creating new, widespread power outages in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea are well-founded.
Whether it be for emergency response or a long-term power grid overhaul, wireless power provided by WigL could prove to be a much-needed solution in storm-ravaged areas moving forward.
WigL converts power into a signal via a transmitter, and sends it to waiting devices via receivers. This could be done at short-range, with transmitters utilizing existing home electrical outlets to nearby appliances, or a long-range, with satellites beaming the power to waiting receivers on Earth (or in space).
In the wake of Hurricane Maria wiping out many of Puerto Rico’s cell towers–which provided the majority of Internet access to the island’s residents–Google sent in Project Loon, a project that restored telecommunications service using radio-outfitted balloons floating 12.4 miles above Earth.
While residents saw their Internet and cell phone access restored quickly thanks to Project Loon and the work of telecom companies, many relied on generators and car chargers to keep their phones running.
Weeks after Maria’s impact, the sad state of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid became public knowledge, as did the need to replace it. The National Resources Defense Council shared details:
“Puerto Rico’s power system is old, heavily polluting, inefficient, and unreliable. Puerto Rican plants are 24 years older than the average U.S. plant. Many oil-fired units fail to meet Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard. The grid is the least efficient in the country. The average Puerto Rican experiences four to five times as many service interruptions as the U.S. average.”
With WigL, those balloons could send not just Internet access but power as well to waiting receivers on the island. Or perhaps, the balloons could be bypassed altogether and power could be sent to critical public infrastructure using satellites targeting those places.
Computer World published an article dreaming about technology that would harvest the sun’s energy from space and then beam it down to Earth–particularly in disaster situations:
“The eventual goal… is a huge space-based solar array that isn’t affected by Earth’s weather systems and constantly collects large amounts of energy, which is then sent down to receivers on Earth via microwave.”
Even without the sun as a power source just yet, WigL technology could help relay energy from ground-based power sources to eventually reach power-starved places. WigL receivers could be distributed in hardest-hit communities, keeping the lights on, drinking water safe and communications going.
Plain and simple, the National Resources Defense Council put it this way:
The U.S. Government must “build a power system that reliably meets residents’ needs and protects them from future storms.”
It seems wireless power, WigL, has a part to play.