Home » UK universities and tech firms awarded £4.3m to develop space-based solar power

UK universities and tech firms awarded £4.3m to develop space-based solar power

by Liam Turner
Solar power being beamed from space to Earth

The UK government has confirmed the list of organisations set to receive their share of £4.3m in funding to develop space-based solar power.

Recipients include a range of UK tech companies and universities, such as Cambridge University and Imperial College London.

Space-based solar power technology collects energy from the sun using satellite-mounted panels and beams it to Earth.

The technology has “huge” potential to boost the UK’s energy security, according to Energy Secretary Grant Shapps.

Announcing the funding at London Tech Week, Shapps said: “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.”

Among the recipients of the funding from the government’s space-based solar power innovation competition are Cambridge University the and Queen Mary University of London.

Cambridge University is developing ultra-lightweight solar panels that can withstand the high radiation levels encountered in space; while the Queen Mary University of London is developing a wireless system to allow space-harvested solar power to be safely beamed to Earth.

A UK government-commissioned independent study in 2021 found space-based solar power could generate up to 10 GW of electricity a year by 2050.

This would meet a quarter of the UK’s current electricity demand.

The race to develop space-based solar power has been heating up of late, with initiatives launched in Europe, Japan, and the US.

Earlier this year, the European Space Agency signed contracts for two parallel concept studies for commercial-scale solar plants in space.

Meanwhile, in Japan, a partnership between a private entity and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been launched to experiment with the technology, with a first trial slated to begin as early as 2025.

Full list of organisations awarded funding:

  • Queen Mary University of London – £960,607
  • University of Bristol – £353,398
  • Satellite Applications Catapult Ltd (CASSIOPeiA Antenna with Steering Scaled Indoor Experiment) – £999,513
  • University of Cambridge – £770,666
  • MicroLink Devices UK Ltd – £449,955
  • Imperial College London – £295,194
  • EDF Energy R&D UK Centre Ltd – £25,855
  • Satellite Applications Catapult Ltd (CASSIOPeiA Commercial and Concept Phase 0/A) – £424,989

Image: andrey_l/Shutterstock

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