Kiwi start-up Emrod claims to have developed the world’s first long-range, high-power, wireless power transmission technology.  PowercoNew Zealand’s second-largest electricity distribution company, will be testing the technology as an alternative to transmission via copper lines.

The Emrod technology works by utilising electromagnetic waves to safely and efficiently transmit energy wirelessly over vast distances. The prototype received some government funding and was designed and built in Auckland in cooperation with Callaghan Innovation.

According to a company statement, New Zealand’s second-largest electricity distribution company, Powerco, will be the first to test the wireless power transmission technology.

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The company was founded by tech entrepreneur Greg Kushnir, who was determined to find a technology that can reduce power distribution costs, avoid outages and support renewable energy. 

“We have an abundance of clean hydro, solar, and wind energy available around the world but there are costly challenges that come with delivering that energy using traditional methods, for example, offshore wind farms or the Cook Strait here in New Zealand requiring underwater cables which are expensive to install and maintain,” said Kushnir.

He continued explaining the concept behind developing a wireless power transmission technology. “I wanted to come up with a solution to move all that clean energy around from where it’s abundant to where it’s needed in a cost-effective, eco-friendly way.

“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,” stated Kushnir.

When Kushnir investigated ways to transmit energy wirelessly over vast distances he was struck by how little has been done in the field. 

“Everyone seems to be fixated on the notion that energy comes to consumers as electricity over copper wires and I knew there had to be a better way,” he says.

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Kushnir approached renowned NZ scientist Dr Ray Simpkin of Callaghan Innovation who lead a feasibility study and worked on the prototype. Callaghan Innovation backed Emrod with a research and development grant and seconded their lead scientist to work on the game changing prototype.

By significantly reducing infrastructure costs, Emrod’s technology has the capacity to support remote communities such as in Africa and the Pacific Islands by providing access to cheap, sustainable energy to power schools, hospitals, and economies.

“The statistics are pretty compelling. We are talking about a potential 50% increase in sustainable energy uptake, up to 85% reduction in outages and up to 65% reduction in electricity infrastructure costs due to the Emrod solution,” said Kushnir.

Powerco has expressed its support for the technology, the distributor’s network transformation manager Nicolas Vessiot said: “We’re committed to innovation, and finding new ways to deliver power safely and efficiently to our customers.

“We’re interested to see whether Emrod’s technology can complement the established ways we deliver power. We envisage using this to deliver electricity in remote places, or across areas with challenging terrain. There’s also potential to use it to keep the lights on for our customers when we’re doing maintenance on our existing infrastructure.”

Emrod plans to deliver the next prototype to Powerco in October and will spend two to three months carrying out lab testing and training Powerco personnel before moving to a field trial.

“The system we are currently building for Powerco will transmit only a few kilowatts but we can use the exact same technology to transmit 100 times more power over much longer distances. Wireless systems using Emrod technology can transmit any amount of power current wired solutions transmit,” said Kushnir.

Safety standards

The tech company has assured that safety of the prototype is their top priority, and they are using a non-ionizing Industrial, Scientific and Medical frequency (ISM) band to transmit power. 

The company says it has been communicating with the regulator Radio Spectrum Management (RSM) continuously to maintain the highest safety standards.  

“The rigorous process we are undertaking is aimed at proving the technology is safe with higher power levels on a larger scale. It also helps in creating maintenance guidelines for companies like Powerco that will be using our devices,” said Kushnir.

“We have chosen this widely used and well-regulated frequency because there’s a long history of using it safely around humans and its scientifically proven safety guidelines, which are accepted internationally.”