Place strategy

UK announces $4 million grant to place solar panels in space

In a world first, the UK government has announced a £3m (~$4m) grant for space solar projects to collect energy from the sun using solar panels in orbit around the earth.

The UK government aims to boost energy security by providing a reliable and affordable alternative to expensive and volatile fossil fuels, mitigating the country’s carbon emissions and improving the country’s reputation as a scientific superpower.

UK Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said space solar projects would collect energy from the sun to provide clean energy day and night, unaffected by weather changes.

The government has teamed up with data and analytics company Spire and Britain’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, RAL Space, and developed a sensor called the Hyperspectral Microwave Sounder in Oxfordshire. Microwave Hyperspectral Sounder’s state-of-the-art weather monitoring sensors will assist meteorological agencies and departments around the world involved in planning, shipping and flood warnings.

For the first time, weather monitoring sensors would be planted in outer space, according to the government.

Kwarteng said: “Space-based solar power could provide an affordable, clean and reliable source of energy that the whole world could benefit from, helping to shift from expensive fossil fuels. These projects are important steps for our national space strategy, developing the UK’s space capabilities while boosting the economy and creating highly skilled jobs.

Earlier this year, scientists at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) used gallium arsenide with quantum wells. They invented a multi-junction (III-V) solar cell with a record efficiency of 39.5% under the global illumination of a sun. These III-V cells have the highest efficiencies of any hardware system, making them the dominant technology for satellites and space vehicles like the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers sent to Mars by NASA.

Researchers around the world are studying the deployment of solar equipment in space. The power collected using solar panels in space for a few hours would meet the world’s energy needs for several days.