From sci-fi to reality: UK wants to use lasers to beam down energy from the sun

From an idea first mooted in 1941, the UK has launched research into whether solar power in space could be beamed back to Earth as a sustainable energy source.

The concept was first thought up by science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov; now the UK Space Agency and UK government are aiming to make the idea a reality.

Space-based solar power (SBSP) stations would capture the solar energy omitted by the sun that never makes it to Earth, and beam it back down using lasers to meet energy demands.

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It is thought that energy could be beamed anywhere on the planet, save for the poles, according to the UK Space Agency.

The research will be led by consulting firm Frazer-Nash, and will look at the viability of the stations, the engineering involved, and whether it could deliver cheaper energy for consumers.

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Martin Soltau, space business manager at Frazer-Nash, said: “With expertise in the space, energy and aerospace sectors, and a strong understanding of existing SBSP technologies, their relative merits and maturity, Frazer-Nash is well placed to assess the potential of this concept.

“We have also partnered with Oxford Economics, who have significant experience in the space sector, and who will provide additional strength and depth to the economic assessment element of this study.

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“We will be forming an expert panel, comprised of leading SBSP experts and space and energy organisations, to gain a range of industry views and to enhance the authority of the technology development roadmap.”

The government says it is putting “new money and attention” into “radical ideas to reduce global warming”.

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Science minister Amanda Solloway said: “A space-based solar power system could provide energy to everyone, even in places that don’t receive sunlight all-year round, like northern Europe and Russia.

“Space solar stations may sound like a piece of science fiction, but they could generate an entirely new source of energy for the UK, while helping us slash our emissions and smash our climate change targets.”

Sky News contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the UK Space Agency and Frazer-Nash to ask how much this was costing the government, but has not yet received an answer.

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