UK Announces $4 Million Grant to Place Solar Panels in Space

Weather monitoring sensors will be placed in the orbit for the first time

July 21, 2022


In a first globally, the United Kingdom government has announced a £3 million (~$4 million) grant for space-based solar projects aimed at collecting the sun’s energy using solar panels orbiting the earth.

The UK government targets bolstering 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 science superpower.

UK’s Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said that the space-based solar projects would collect the sun’s power to deliver clean energy day and night, unaffected by weather changes.

The government has partnered with data and analytics company Spire and UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, RAL Space, and developed a sensor called the Hyperspectral Microwave Sounder in Oxfordshire. The cutting-edge weather monitoring Hyperspectral Microwave Sounder sensors will help the meteorological agencies and departments worldwide involved in planning, shipping, and flood warnings.

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

Kwarteng said, “Space-based solar power could provide an affordable, clean and reliable source of energy for the whole world to benefit from, helping the shift from expensive fossil fuels. These projects are major milestones for our National Space Strategy, developing the UK’s space capabilities while boosting the economy and delivering high-skill jobs.”

Earlier this year, scientists at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) used gallium arsenide with quantum wells. They invented a multijunction (III-V) solar cell with a record efficiency of 39.5% under 1-sun global illumination. These III-V cells possess the highest efficiencies of any material system, making them the dominant technology for satellites and space vehicles like the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers sent to Mars by NASA.

Researchers worldwide are studying the deployment of solar equipment in outer space. The power gathered using solar panels in space for a few hours would suffice the energy needs of the world for several days.