A project exploring the use of space-based reflectors to shine sunlight towards Earth-bound solar farms has won backing from the European Research Council.
Their work will outline the potential benefits of creating a constellation of gossamer-thin satellite reflectors which would redirect sunlight from orbit towards future large-scale solar power farm on earth at the start and end of each day, when consumer demand for power is at its peak but the output of solar farms is weakest. They will research the most efficient orbits and control strategies for the reflectors so that they can generate the maximum additional power on the ground while minimising the amount of stray light which reaches the earth.
Recipient of the grant, Professor Colin McInnes of the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering, said: “The broad range of services delivered by the space sector are information-based; satellite navigation, telecommunications and Earth observation. However, the possibility of delivering energy from space offers entirely new opportunities for the future.”
The team will also work to develop and demonstrate in the laboratory new methods to automate the fabrication of such delicate reflectors in space, for example using 3D printing methods, lessening the danger of them being damaged during ascent to orbit and deployment.
The project, titled ‘SOLSPACE: Enhancing Global Clean Energy Services Using Orbiting Solar Reflectors’, will employ four postdoctoral researchers to work with him to devise, develop and demonstrate strategies for increasing the amount of energy produced by future large-scale solar power farms around the world.
“The delivery of global clean energy services is one the key challenges for the 21st century,” said Professor McInnes. “I’m delighted to have received this Advanced Grant from the European Research Council and I’m looking forward to starting work with our team on this exciting project to understand how space technology can contribute to the future of global energy services.”