Government backs plans to launch UK’s first space power station

Space expert shows off inflatable lunar habitat

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The UK could receive a huge lifeline as it plans to one day launch a power station in space which could beam down limitless clean energy to Britain from the cosmos, which has been back by the Government as a viable solution. The Space Energy Initiative (SEI) is an exciting project in the pipeline that could see Britain set up its first power station in space by 2035. It will be made up of satellites with lightweight solar panels and a system of mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto the panels, generating around 3.4 GW of electricity on the satellite.

Wireless signals will then be beamed back down to Earth, generating power for clean electricity down below. By the mid-2040s, the power generated from the space station could reach 30GW, accounting for up to 30 percent of the UK’s electricity demand, according to those involved in the project. 

The initiative was launched last year with support from the Government and National Grid to determine whether space-based solar power is a reliable way of providing clean energy for the UK. Now, the SEI is teaming up with Airbus, which will host a technology showcase to demonstrate that solar energy can be safely transported through the air, over a distance of around 130ft.

The Airbus demonstration will take place in Munich on September 27. Members of the UK Space Agency and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will be keeping a close eye on the results. 

The SEI is hoping to persuade other Governments to invest in the technology to help unlock a huge potential roll-out of solar technology to create a large capacity in space. And it comes at a time when the importance of homegrown energy has been laid bare as Britain remains exposed to volatile gas markets, which has seen energy bills shoot up.

Dr Paul Bate, the head of the UK Space Agency told The Telegraph that this kind of initiative could indeed boost Britain’s energy security, possibly proving a lifeline for the future as it could help the country avoid the impacts of Russian gas cuts and other factors that impact global markets. 

He said: “On energy security, it’s only ever a matter of time before we harness the power of the Sun. With space-based solar power we already have expertise in the UK, and we already have a demonstrator in space, in the International Space Station (ISS), showing how we can harness a consistent baseload of energy which is safe and renewable.

“So some things we can already do and for the other things it’s about long-term investment over the next 10, 20 and 30 years. We have space-based solar power experts in Britain and other countries now getting involved, so I do think it’s something Britain will be benefiting from.”

It comes after a cost-benefit report by the Fazer-Nash Consultancy found that this “alternative energy solution” could bring a huge relief to consumers who have been subject to soaring energy bills at the mercy of Putin’s gas cuts and the war in Ukraine. 

Sam White, the Group Leader for Frazer-Nash’s Techno-Economic Assessment, who led the study, said: “As electricity prices continue to rise, a Europe-wide space-based solar power programme could deliver over €180billion (£155billion) in benefits to Europe, and reduce reliance on the import of fossil fuels.

“This alternative energy solution offers greater energy security, subsequently reducing Europe’s vulnerability to price volatility, and energy-related geopolitics.”

The SEI is seeking an initial £75million investment to cover the first two years of development, building to £300million over five years. Since it first launched a year ago, over 50 British technology companies and Government departments have signed up to the initiative, with the Government also recently releasing £3million to help further the project.

Martin Soltau, a Space Business Partner at the Frazer-Nash Consultancy, and also a Co-Chair Space Energy Initiative, told back in March: “Energy security is ever more important, and we will look to work with our natural partners to raise funding, develop the international regulations and standards, and develop technology.”

He added that the initiative could see Britain become a more dominant player in the space sector. Mr Soltau said: Space-based solar power could really catapult the UK into being a dominant player in space, in terms of technology, industrial and scientific capability and expertise.”

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Mr Soltau said that the latest Munich demonstration is a bid to raise awareness about space-based solar power. 

He said: “Wireless power transmission is the core technology at the heart of space-based solar power, so it is very helpful to show policy makers and the public that this is a technology which exists today and for which the physical principles are well understood. The Munich demonstration event is all part of raising awareness with the energy sector as much as the space sector.”

The European Space Agency (ESA) has also signalled the crucial role this could play in helping Europe become energy independent. 

Josef Aschbacher, the director general of the ESA, told The Telegraph: “Space-based Solar Power would be an important step towards carbon neutrality and energy independence for Europe.”

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