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The UK government has commissioned new research into a space-based solar power (SBSP) system that would use very large solar power satellites to collect solar energy, to then convert it into high-frequency radio waves, and safely beam it back to ground-based receivers connected to the electrical power grid, which would be used in homes and businesses.

Originally featured in the work of science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov in 1941, as the cost of solar panels and space travel continue to fall a number of nations including the USA, Japan and China are looking into the possibility of beaming clean energy down from space.

Now the UK in 2020 will explore whether this renewable technology could offer a resilient, safe and sustainable energy source.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “Solar space stations may sound like science fiction, but they could be a game-changing new source of energy for the UK and the rest of the world. This pioneering government-backed study will help shine a light on the possibilities for a space-based solar power system which, if successful, could play an important role in reducing our emissions and meeting the UK’s ambitious climate change targets. “

The study, led by Frazer-Nash Consultancy, will consider the engineering and economics of such a system – whether it could deliver affordable energy for consumers, and the engineering and technology that would be required to build it.

One of the biggest issues to overcome is assembling the massive satellites in orbit, which has not been done before at this scale.

Previously, a solar system in space would have been far too expensive to be considered, but with lightweight solar panels and wireless power transmission advancing rapidly a number of nations are now considering the technology.

Martin Soltau, Space Business Manager At Frazer-Nash Outlined What The Study Will Involve:

“Decarbonising our economy is vital. We need to explore new technologies to provide clean, affordable, secure and dependable energy for the nation. SBSP has the potential to contribute substantially to UK energy generation and offers many benefits if it can be made practical and affordable.”

Frazer-Nash is studying the leading international solar power satellite designs, and we will be drawing up the engineering plan to deploy an operational SBSP system by 2050. We are forming an expert panel, comprised of leading SBSP experts and space and energy organisations, to gain a range of industry views.

As the effects of climate change develop more pronounced, prominent research institutions and government agencies are focusing new money and attention on novel approaches to reduce global warming.

Last year, Britain passed an important milestone, with more electricity generated from sources such as wind, solar and nuclear power, that produced almost no carbon dioxide emissions, than from carbon-emitting fuels like natural coal and gas.

As the National Space Council sets a new direction for our space policy, the UK Space Agency is committed to understanding the future opportunities space technologies open up.

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