UK enters the solar space race


The U.K. government has commissioned a study into the feasibility of assembling large solar plant satellites in space and beaming the energy generated, as high-frequency radio waves, to terrestrial receivers.

English systems, engineering and technology group Frazer-Nash Consultancy has been tasked with drawing up an engineering plan to deploy a space-based solar power system by mid century, according to a press release issued on Saturday by the U.K. government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

BEIS said the advent of private, commercial space launches has changed the economics of space-based operations to such an extent, in-space assembly of the infrastructure required may be feasible. The engineering and economics of such an operation will be compared with other renewable energy solutions as the U.K. aims for a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

Forecaster Oxford Economics is also involved in the feasibility study, according to Frazer-Nash space business manager Martin Soltau.

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Soltau, quoted in the BEIS press release, said: “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 [space-based solar power] system by 2050. We are forming an expert panel comprised of leading SBSP experts and space and energy organizations, to gain a range of industry views. We will compare SBSP alongside other forms of renewable energy to see how it would contribute as part of a future mix of clean energy technologies.”

UK Space Agency chief executive Graham Turnock said: “The sun never sets in space so a space solar power system could supply renewable energy to anywhere on the planet, day or night, rain or shine. It is an idea that has existed for decades but has always felt decades away. The U.K. is growing its status as a global player in space and we have bold plans to launch small satellites in the coming years. Space solar could be another string to our bow, and this study will help establish whether it is right for the U.K.”

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