The importance of reducing our carbon footprint is something everyone is aware of these days. One new technology that may add to this fight is the development of wireless power. Wireless charging is already seeing fast progress in its adoption among individual consumers. Even large corporations also stand to gain, as it provides an alternative to carbon credits, which are the conventional way most companies seek to reduce their carbon footprints but aren't typically as effective as they're often stated to be.
Wireless charging — or, better yet, touchless wireless charging — offers another approach, though it may be some time before we reap the full benefits of it.
The last decade has seen a huge boost in the capabilities and development of wireless power technology (WPT). What was once just an idea is quickly becoming a reality as WPT demonstrates its ability to provide short-distance, small-scale, cable-free electricity transmission for handheld devices, small industrial and medical equipment, and electronic vehicles (EV). Governments, private businesses, and individual consumers are already starting to take notice and begin adopting its use in everything from coffee shops to airport lounges to offices and homes.
The reasons for its growing adoption are fairly obvious. Not only is wireless charging more resilient and convenient than conventional plug-in charging, but WPT, as it exist today, doesn’t yet free us from the problem of copper wires and cords connected to IoT devices. That’s where the growth of touchless WPT (tWPT) is important. Without the need to plug in the WPT receiver into the wall, tWPT allows for fewer cords, adaptors, and wall outlets. It's also believed that the widescale use of wireless charging will provide a huge boost to EV adoption (with all the environmental benefits that entails). Once tWPT becomes cost-effective and seamless to charge electric-powered buses, long-haul trucks, and private vehicles, their use is sure to skyrocket.
But this is only a small part of the battle to reduce our carbon footprint and increase our green energy usage. WPT and tWPT technologies, as they currently stand, are only capable of being used on a small scale and with limited ranges. The next big step will be the implementation of tWPT for large-scale green energy production and distribution. The race is currently on to develop a tWPT transceiver architecture that can make touchless wireless power transfer a reality at limitless distances and within regulated power levels. If successful, ambient radio frequency (RF) pollution can be reduced to make our network greener and more energy-efficient.
Reduce Carbon Offsets
To fully understand how tWPT can reduce industrial emissions, we need to first look at the current method by which most companies aim to reduce their environmental impact: carbon credits.
Each credit is a sort of permit that allows the company that holds it to emit 1 ton of carbon dioxide. It’s a part of the so-called “cap-and-trade” program, where companies are awarded credits that allow them to pollute up to a certain level. This limit is reduced periodically, while any unused credits can be sold off to another company that needs them. The idea is to provide dual incentives for companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The first is that they’ll be fined if they exceed their cap, while the second is that any credits they save can be resold for a profit.
Carbon markets exist under both mandatory (compliance schemes) and voluntary programs. While compliance markets are created and regulated under regional, national, and international regimes, voluntary markets have little to no regulation. Currently, the involuntary market is on track to reach a record of $6.7 billion by the end of 2021. Critics have been keen to point out that when credits are traded outside of a regulated exchange there is no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the buyer. Instead, they are merely offset, allowing companies to claim they are eco-friendly without actually reducing their emissions.
In many cases, carbon credits are bought from projects that would have happened anyway. In other cases, the benefits are only temporary, as happened in Brazil during the World Cup, when FIFA bought credits to offset its emissions by planting trees. Not long after, the trees were cut down, with more trees eventually being felled than all the credits sold.
Another approach is clearly needed, and tWPT can be the technology to provide that approach. By allowing for greater energy efficiency, wireless electrical grids of local area networks (WiGL) using tWPT can reduce the demand for fossil fuels and, in turn, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Better yet, when combined with green energy solutions, such as solar or wind, the benefits become even greater.
The Power Grid
The technology for large-scale application of touchless wireless power grids via radio frequency (RF) radiation is still very much in the early stages of development. It only recently became feasible due to reductions in power requirements for electronics. WiGL has partnered with Florida International University (FIU), and it has discovered a few breakthroughs that are likely to fast track tWPT. Combined with significant Department of Defense (DoD) interest, tWPT looks to be on the very-near horizon.
The day where tWPT has advanced to the point that we can do away entirely with utility poles and have our entire power grid work through green wireless power transmission may still be some time away. But, if the advances in the development of tWPT by FIU and/or for DoD continue to successfully progress, that day may be closer than anyone thinks.