Web Development by SUSTAINABLE

Investment for Space-based Solar Panels Announced

5 min

Image Credit: NASA, Unsplash
Leading UK universities and technology companies will receive a multi-million-pound UK Government investment to drive forward innovation in solar panels. How will this help to sustainably power UK homes?

These universities and technology companies will be receiving a share of £4.3 million in government funding to help to drive forward innovation in the sector.

Space-based solar panels collect energy from the sun using panels on satellites and beaming it safely back to Earth with wireless technology.

Space-based solar panels could see the creation of over 140,000 jobs

This technology, which is currently in the early stages of development, has a huge potential to amplify the UK’s energy security, reduce the need for fossil fuels, and drive down household bills by providing solar power all year round.

An independent study in 2021 found that space-based solar power could generate up to 10GW of electricity annually, a quarter of the UK’s power needs by 2050. Also, it has the potential to create a multi-billion-pound industry, with 143,000 jobs across the country.

On the importance of driving forward innovation in the sector, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps said: “I want the UK to boldly go where no country has gone before – boosting our energy security by getting our power directly from space.”

Continuing, he explained that the funding will help to see the technology become a reality: “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.”

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.

Multiple universities are receiving funding for research into the solar panels

Eight projects will be awarded funding from the UK Government’s Space Based Solar Power Innovation Competition, part of the flagship £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio.

The University of Cambridge is receiving over £770,000 to develop ultra-lightweight solar panels that can survive long periods in high-radiation environments like the conditions in space. This will help to increase the lifetime of these satellites, improve energy yields, and lower the cost per unit of energy.

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.

A total of £449,000 has been awarded to MicroLink Devices UK Ltd in Port Talbot, South Wales, to develop the next generation of lightweight, flexible solar panels, which could be used for solar satellites.

Another university which is receiving funding is the University of Bristol. It is getting over £353,000 to produce a simulation of solar space wireless power transfer capability to explore the possibilities of this technology and to provide further evidence on the performance, safety, and reliability of space-based solar.

Satellite Applications Catapult Ltd in Didcot has been awarded over £999,000 for an experiment to test the electronical steering and beam quality of its space satellite antenna technology.

In addition, the company is being funded with £424,000 for another project to study how to advance commercial space-based solar power that can provide a reliable source of electricity for the UK.

Imperial College London is receiving over £295,000 for a study to assess the key benefits and impacts of space solar, including how solar energy from space could be integrated into the electricity grid alongside other low-carbon energy sources.

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

The funding will bring together the UK space and energy industries

Dr Mamatha Maheshwarappa, Payload Systems Lead at the UK Space Agency, highlighted that solar panels are part of the solution to create sustainable electricity: “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.”

The UK is already setting the benchmark when it comes to renewable technologies, including being home to the world’s four largest wind farms, and more than 99 per cent of the country’s solar power capacity has been installed since 2010, enough to power over four million homes.

Building on this, the UK Government is aiming to make space solar a new clean energy industry for the UK, investing in its early-stage development with the £4.3 million funding, including £3.3 million from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and £1 million from the UK Space Agency.

This new industry builds on historical links between space technology and the development of solar power as a clean energy source. It is bringing together the UK’s space and energy industries, with the nation’s leading researchers and industry leaders in these sectors joining forces to realise the transformative potential of space-based solar power.

Seeing technologies like space-based solar panels evolve will have a positive impact on the sustainable energy landscape and on the housing sector, as it can be used as a source of clean energy.