The UK government is making £3m of grant funding available for space-based solar power (SBSP) projects that collect the Sun’s energy using solar panels orbiting the Earth.
According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the new space technologies could help to cut carbon emissions, improve energy security, and cement the UK’s reputation as a ‘science superpower’.
SBSP designs are well advanced in several nations and the government has already confirmed the engineering feasibility of the concept.
According to the Space Energy Initiative, a typical SBSP system comprises a constellation of massive satellites in orbit, equipped with lightweight solar panels and a system of mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto the panels.
This solar energy is then converted into RF microwave radiation, and beamed down to a specific spot on the earth’s surface. This could deliver clean energy 24 hours a day, unaffected by the weather closer to ground.
Grant funding will also be made available for cutting-edge weather monitoring sensors to aid more accurate weather forecasts. The sensors will be put into orbit for the first time, thanks to a partnership with data and analytics company Spire Global.
The Hyperspectral Microwave Sounder (HYMS) will help meteorological agencies and businesses around the world involved with planning, shipping, and flood warnings. It is four times more powerful than the sensors used on existing satellites.
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Energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “Space-based solar power could provide an affordable, clean and reliable source of energy for the whole world to benefit from, helping the move away from expensive fossil fuels.
“Today’s investment is an exciting example of how we can go even further in our ambitions to make the UK a science superpower.
“I am also delighted that the HYMS technology, developed in Oxfordshire, will be put into service by Spire Global to help improve weather forecasting.
“These projects are major milestones for our National Space Strategy, developing the UK’s space capabilities while boosting the economy and delivering high-skill jobs.”
Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris is being appointed as the National Space Champion – a newly created role. He will be tasked with working with the industry to ensure the UK’s space sector continues to grow, attract investment, and develop innovative products.
“The UK space sector is fast becoming a world leader and I look forward to being a champion for the industry within government to ensure we are able to spearhead the industry to even further growth,” he said.
Image: The multi-rotary SPS (MR-SPS) concept is one with multiple independent solar sub-arrays used to point to the sun (credit: NASA)
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