Space-based solar farms could power millions of homes, suggests Shapps

The Energy Security Secretary announced £4.3m funding for research projects.
The Energy Security Secretary announced £4.3m funding for research projects.

Space-based solar power could help tackle climate change, Grant Shapps said as he promised £4.3 million for research projects.

The Energy Security Secretary said collecting solar power in space and beaming it wirelessly to Earth could generate round-the-clock electricity in all weathers.

Speaking at London Tech Week, he said: “With the climate clock ticking, innovation has never been so important.

“Half of the emissions reductions required to reach net zero by 2050 will have to come from technologies which are not yet totally commercially available.”

The technology for generating solar power in space for use on Earth is still being developed, but scientists at the California Institute of Technology announced earlier this month that they had managed to beam “detectable power” to Earth through microwaves.

Mr Shapps said ultra-lightweight solar cells which could be put into space more efficiently have also been developed.

“Space-based solar energy farms could deliver clean energy day and night far more efficiently and, of course, in all weathers,” he said.

He suggested the technology could generate 10 gigawatts of power by 2050 – enough for three-quarters of Britain’s homes – with the industry having the potential to create 143,000 jobs.

Eight projects have been awarded a share of the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio fund.

Beneficiaries include the University of Cambridge, Queen Mary University of London, Port Talbot’s MicroLink Devices, the University of Bristol, Didcot’s Satellite Applications Catapult, Imperial College, and EDF Energy.

Dr Mamatha Maheshwarappa, payload systems lead at the UK Space Agency, said: “Space technology and solar energy have a long history – the need to power satellites was a key driver in increasing the efficiency of solar panels which generate electricity for homes and businesses today.

“There is significant potential for the space and energy sectors to work together to support the development of space-based solar power, and the UK Space Agency has contributed £1 million to these innovative projects to help take this revolutionary concept to the next level.”