UK Government pledges £4.3m for solar power in space

The Department for Energy Security and Net-Zero (DESNZ) will allocate £4.3m of funding to seven British innovation projects in the space-based solar field, its Secretary Grant Shapps has announced today (13 June). The funding is being allocated with support from the UK Space Agency.

Space-based solar involves fitting solar panels on satellites to generate energy from the sun. Energy is them beamed back to earth ready for use. The technology is in its infancy but several nations, including Japan and the US, have begun to scale funding.

“We’re taking a giant leap by backing the development of this exciting technology and putting the UK at the forefront of this rapidly emerging industry as it prepares for launch,” Shapps said.

“By winning this new space race, we can transform the way we power our nation and provide cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy for generations to come.”

Among the organisations receiving new Government funding is the University of Cambridge, which is receiving £770,000 to develop ultra-lightweight solar panels that can survive in space.

Also in academia, Queen Mary University, London, will receive £960,000 to develop a wireless power transmission system capable of efficiently beaming energy from satellites to earth.  The University of Bristol is also undertaking research into transmission systems for space-based solar, as is Satellte Applications Catapult Ltd.

The other organisations receiving funding are MicroLink Devices, for its development of lightweight and flexible solar panels, and EDF Energy, which will study how we can best add space-based solar to the UK’s existing grid.

Imperial College London is also taking a share of the funding, for a study to assess the potential social and economic benefits – and impacts – of space-based solar.

A previous Government-commissioned study found that space-based solar could generate up to 10GW of electricity a year for the UK by 2050. For context, the UK will need around 40GW of generation capacity overall to meet its power needs at this point.

That study also found that space-based solar could support more than 140,000 new jobs across the UK.

The Conservative Government has long been asked to support solar to the same extent as it has offshore wind. In its recent response to Chris Skidmore MP’s Net-Zero Review, the Government agreed to target 70GW of solar capacity by 2035. It has assembled a new taskforce with experts from academia and industry to help map a pathway to achieving this target.

Comments (2)

  1. John Barton says:

    Does anyone else think this is a really crazy bad idea?
    * Space junk at the high orbits needed to stay in sunlight while over the UK in winter.
    * Microwave beams going astray and cooking people and wildlife
    * An extremely expensive solution. Other solutions are much more practical and cheaper.
    * Also see James Bond film “Die Another Day”, project Icarus. That did not go well.

    1. Tim Beesley says:

      My first thoughts: space junk!

      Wouldn’t it be money better spent fitting solar panels to our roofs and insulating our walls? It would save all the time and bother of this flight of fancy.

      As usual though, big business doesn’t make money from fitting solar PV to my roof or insulating my house, so that won’t happen. But MBDA will make a fortune from building satellites needlessly. So we’re left with this taxpayers funding this specious nonsense.

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