Space-Based Solar Power Will Recieve a $5.4m Funding Package From the UK

By Sophia Francise

June 14, 2023
black and white digital art, earth, a satellite and wireless solar power technology in outer space
Artist's concept of a solar power satellite in place. Shown is the assembly of a microwave transmission antenna. The solar power satellite was to be located in a geosynchronous orbit, 35,786 kilometres (22,236 mi) above the Earth's surface. NASA 1976

According to the UK government, the development of space-based solar will receive £4.3 million ($5.4 million) in financing.  

The funds will be used to create wireless technologies and solar panels that can be installed in space and send the electricity they generate to Earth. 

The institutions and digital firms that will partake in the financing were revealed by Grant Shapps, the UK’s Energy Security, and Net Zero Secretary, during a speech at London Digital Week on June 13. 

“Space-based solar energy farms could deliver clean energy day and night, far more efficiently, and of course in all weathers,” Shapps told audiences. “Space-based solar could generate up to 10GW of electricity by 2050 […] it would be sufficient to power about three-quarters of Britain’s homes,” he went on.1

The Queen Mary University of London, which is creating a wireless technology to transfer sustainable energy to the Earth, is one of the winning organizations.

The college will be given £965,000, and the ultra-lightweight solar panels developed by the University of Cambridge will also receive more than £770,000 in funding to withstand periods of strong radiation. 

The money comes from the UK Government’s Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), a clean energy research initiative with a $1 billion budget.  

“This NZIP grant gives us the opportunity to extend our work to explore how the latest microwave technology can be used to develop cost-effective solutions to deliver net zero using the abundant solar energy resources found in outer space,” said Professor Xiadong Chen of the Queen Mary University of London Antennas & Electromagnetics Research Laboratory. 

The “New Space Race” 

“With the climate clock ticking, innovation has never been so important,” Shapps said on Tuesday. “Half of the emissions reductions required to meet net zero by 2050 will have to come from technologies that are not yet commercially available. Or even partially.”

The news coincides with several changes in the space-based solar sector, which Shapps mentioned in his address.

In a first for the globe, the California Institute of Technology has successfully transported solar energy from space to Earth.2

The University of Pennsylvania has also created brand-new, extremely lightweight solar cells for use in space. 

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Shapps called the contest a “new space race” in a statement. By supporting the development of this innovative technology and positioning the UK at the forefront of this quickly developing sector as it becomes ready for launch, he said, “We’re taking a giant leap.”

References

  1. Florence Jones, ‘UK Government announces $5.4m funding package for space-based solar power’, Power Technology, 14 June 2023, https://www.power-technology.com/news/uk-government-announces-5-4m-space-based-solar-funding/[]
  2. Sophia Francise, ‘Wireless Solar Power Transmission from Space to Earth – Caltech’s New AchievementEvincism, 5 June 2023, https://evincism.com/wireless-solar-power-transmission-from-space-to-earth-caltechs-new-achievement/[]
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