UK looks to harness solar power in space

Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps will use London Tech Week to announce £4.3m in funding for space-based solar power.

The technology works by collecting energy from the Sun using panels on satellites and beaming it back to earth with wireless technology, obviously benefitting from the fact that the Sun is visible 99% of the time.

satellite flying on space

An study in 2021, found that space-based solar power could generate up to 10GW of electricity a year, a quarter of the UK’s power needs, by 2050. 

The funding comes  from the government’s Space Based Solar Power Innovation Competition, part of the £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio and is being share between eight UK universities and tech companies.

Projects being supporting include that at the University of Cambridge who will receive over £770,000 to develop ultra-lightweight solar panels that can survive long periods in high-radiation environments.

Queen Mary University in London will receive over £960,000 to develop a wireless power transmission system with high efficiency over a long range, to support the technology to beam solar power from the satellites back to Earth.

EDF Energy R&D UK Centre Ltd will receive over £25,000 for a study to improve knowledge of the value of introducing space based solar power into the UK’s grid.

Dr Mamatha Maheshwarappa, Payload Systems Lead at the UK Space Agency, said: ‘Space technology and solar energy have a long history – the need to power satellites was a key driver in increasing the efficiency of solar panels which generate electricity for homes and businesses today.

‘There is significant potential for the space and energy sectors to work together to support the development of space-based solar power, and the UK Space Agency has contributed £1 million to these innovative projects to help take this revolutionary concept to the next level.’

Professor Xiadong Chen of the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) Antennas & Electromagnetics Research Laboratory said: ‘This grant gives us the opportunity to extend our work to explore how the latest microwave technology can be used to develop cost-effective solutions to deliver net-zero using the abundant solar energy resources found in outer space.’


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