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Experts Say Orbiting Farms Could Solve UK’s Solar Power Shortcomings

Graham Turner

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Space solar panels
Despite it being one of the most promising sources of clean energy available to us, solar energy currently comes with some serious caveats.

Experts have said they can provide reliable energy to a quarter of British homes while circumventing some of the biggest drawbacks of solar energy.

Said drawbacks include a lack of ground coverage, weather interruptions and of course, night.

Considering that, in winter, the UK is in a darkness for half of the day, huge strides in energy storage would have to be made in order for on-the-ground solar to be effective round the clock.

New proposals being put to the Government seek to address these issues. Experts have posited that a series of giant solar farms in space will solve any misgivings about the profileration of solar energy.

The idea of putting solar panels in space isn’t a new idea, however, it’s only now – with the expnoential decrease in the cost of solar cells and space launches – that it’s reaching a modicum of viability.

Despite this, putting this plan into action would be a huge feat of engineering.

The report given to the Government proposes a 1,700-metre wide structure, weighing 2,000 tonnes and would orbit the earth at 35,000 km – no small undertaking.

Something of this scale couldn’t be launched whole, it would need to be sent into space in thousands of pieces then put together in space by robots.

When completeted, the structure would effectively comprise two giant mirrors, reflecting that reflect light onto the solar panels. The gathered energy would then be beamed to Earth using high-frequency radio waves and caught on the surface by an array of antennas.

Frazer-Nash, authors of the report, has predicted that five systems would cost around £16.3bn to research and then launch, although it claims this would be cheaper per megawatt hour than nuclear or gas plants.


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Frazer-Nash, authors of the report, has predicted that five systems would cost around £16.3bn to research and then launch, although it claims this would be cheaper per megawatt hour than nuclear or gas plants.

Martin Soltau, Space Business Manager at Frazer-Nash said: “A high percentage of renewable technologies rely on where the wind blows and the sun shines.” The consultancy recently delivered a Government-commissioned report on space-based solar power.

“There is this increasing realisation of just how very difficult net zero is going to be. We need to look at these more ambitious technologies if we’re going to really deliver that,” he added.


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Graham Turner

Sub Editor

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