To boldly glow: Grant Shapps champions £4.3 million plans to beam down solar energy to earth using satellites
- Grant Shapps wants to ensure the UK gathers power using satellite solar panels
Britain must ‘boldly go’ into space and beam down solar energy to earth, the Energy Secretary will announce today.
Grant Shapps wants to ensure the UK is not left behind in efforts to gather power in space using solar panels on satellites.
He made the Star Trek-style pledge as he announced £4.3million in government funding for the plan.
Once gathered, the energy can be beamed back to earth in the form of radiowaves, which can then be collected and fed into the power grid.
On Earth, solar power is only available while the sun is shining, but satellites in space could absorb the rays and convert them to electricity nearly 24 hours a day.
And the technology is beginning to be tested around the world.
Last month in the US, a research team from the California Institute of Technology announced they had successfully beamed down a small amount of energy from a satellite
Last month in the US, a research team from the California Institute of Technology announced they had successfully beamed down a small amount of energy from a satellite – 200milliwatts, calling it an ‘important proof of principle’.
To stop the UK lagging in the race to pioneer space solar, the Government has offered financial backing to two UK-based projects.
One at Cambridge University will develop ultra-lightweight solar panels for the satellites that can function in the high-radiation conditions of space.
The other, at Queen Mary University in London, is working on a wireless system to enable the solar power collected in space to be transferred to earth.
A 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, creating a multi-billion-pound industry, with 143,000 jobs across the country.
But the £4.3million funding is likely to be a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of getting a satellite solar power generator in space.
Grant Shapps wants to ensure the UK is not left behind in efforts to gather power in space using solar panels on satellites
One British-backed prototype design, a 2,000 tonne satellite system called CASSIOPeiA, designed by Oxford based IECL, has been estimated to cost between £10billion and £15billion.
Mr 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.’
But with the barriers to the space technology, such as ensuring solar panels can survive the high radiation in space, one solar energy insider argued the focus should be on supporting solar farms on earth, such as speeding up the process of linking them to the power grid – which in some cases can take up to 15 years.
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