Space-based solar power research launched

Mark Garnier MP, vice-chair of the All Party Space Group, at the Space Energy Initiative launch

The Space Energy Initiative (SEI) is being supported by Coventry’s Manufacturing Technology Centre, as it looks at how space can be used to provide energy for terrestrial applications through space-based solar power.

The consortium will explore how space can be a solution to global energy needs and will develop the first Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) by 2030 which will be commercially operational by 2050.

It aims to develop a space-based solar power station consisting of huge solar arrays being constructed and assembled in orbit.

The SEI will bring researchers and commercial partners together and will commission research and development projects, whilst supporting the creation of international regulations.

MTC says it will develop new technologies to support the project and upskill the UK’s industry to play its part. In addition, it will identify UK supply chain gaps to ensure the UK leads the global approach in providing sustainable and reliable global energy.

Shan Dulanty, the chief engineer at the MTC, said, “We are proud to be a founding member of the SEI as well as taking a lead in the development of UK industry and supply chain capability.”

He added, “To achieve net-zero we must develop new, renewable energy generation technologies that deliver continuous clean power. Space-based solar power is the concept of harvesting solar energy in space and beaming it to earth. This could provide a substantial percentage of the UK’s energy needs in the future.”

The consortium consists of large and small energy, space and high-tech enterprises and intends to form a public-private partnership to fund the SBSP.

The concept of space-based solar power dates back to the 1980s, but the radio frequency technology was not advanced enough to provide an efficient transfer of energy for a commercially viable system.

The SEI was formally launched at the House of Commons. The project is seen as a moonshot opportunity for the UK by the BEIS Energy Directorate and Energy Minister Greg Hands, the BEIS Space Directorate and the UK Space Agency.

Fraser Nash Consultancy and the Satellite Applications Catapult are co-chairs of the SEI, leading the project with other founding partners including Airbus, the Energy Systems Catapult, Innovate UK, Lockheed Martin, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and several UK universities.