The UK is dreaming big when it comes to solar energy, but the goal of tapping into space-based solar power may seem too ambitious. However, with the help of its strategic partner Saudi Arabia, this dream may be achievable sooner than expected.
With a strong focus on renewable energy and an ambition to become a leader in space exploration, Saudi Arabia has already made clear its commitment to investing heavily in the UK’s space sector. This investment could provide the much-needed resources for achieving the UK’s goals of utilizing solar power from outer space.
In this article, we will discuss how Saudi Arabia can support these ambitions and what benefits they could bring by doing so.
We will also look at some of the challenges that must still be overcome before these dreams become reality and explore how far along each side is in their partnership toward making them come true.
Saudi Arabia and Solar
Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern country known for its vast oil reserves and major role in the global energy market. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has shifted its focus to solar energy production as part of its ambitious Vision 2030 program.
This program outlines the need to diversify away from oil-based energy sources while encouraging economic growth and development.
The country is investing heavily in renewable electricity generation using solar technology, with an aim of generating 9.5 gigawatts (GW) by 2023 and 58 GW by 2030. This focus on solar power will enable the nation to reduce its dependence on imported fuels and increase the share of renewables in its total energy mix.
It also provides an opportunity for local companies to gain expertise, create jobs, and participate in the global clean energy transition.
Saudi Investment in UK Space Sector
The UK space sector is set to benefit significantly from new investment by the Saudi Arabian government. The kingdom has announced plans to invest in British companies working in the field of space solar energy production, as part of its wider strategy to diversify its economy away from oil.
The aim of the investment is to help develop and trial new technologies for producing, storing, and transmitting renewable solar energy from space. This could have huge implications for the global power industry, with applications ranging from providing internet access in remote areas, developing communication technology for large-scale projects, and creating new sources of clean energy production.
Saudi Arabia’s interest in this sector has been sparked by reports that suggest that solar energy produced in space could be up to 10 times more efficient than traditional ground-based solar farms. Also, production costs have started to reduce with this new advanced technology.
Benefits of Solar Energy from Space
Space Solar Farms are an innovative and revolutionary way to generate renewable energy. This is done by placing large arrays of solar panels in space, far away from Earth’s atmosphere and light pollution.
These Space Solar Farms have many advantages over traditional solar farms on earth, including higher efficiency due to a lack of atmospheric effects, more available land for installation, and no need for cooling systems which can be expensive to maintain.
Space Solar Farms can capture up to three times the amount of energy per unit area than traditional ground-mounted solar panels because they receive direct sunlight without losing any energy due to heat loss or reflection.
Additionally, these farms will not take up valuable land resources since they’re located outside the atmosphere. Furthermore, there are no issues with wind interference or shading from trees or other structures as there would be on earth-based installations.
Challenges to building Space Solar Farm
The growing world population, relentless climate change, and a need to reduce emissions point to solar energy as a major part of the solution. To meet the challenge, many countries are setting ambitious goals for transitioning to more renewable sources of energy – and solar is increasingly seen as a viable option.
Harnessing the power of space solar energy is a long-term goal for many countries. However, building a space solar farm comes with various challenges that need to be addressed before it can become reality.
Firstly, costs are a major factor to consider when attempting to build a space solar farm. The cost of launching and maintaining satellites in orbit is considerable, far exceeding the cost of constructing ground-based systems.
Other additional costs include research and development for new technologies as well as safety measures for launching satellites into space.
There are also engineering challenges associated with building a space solar farm such as the complexity of assembling large-scale components in outer space and dealing with radiation exposure from cosmic rays.
Role of Saudi Arabia in Achieving Space Goals
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is taking bold steps toward achieving its space-based dreams. Through partnerships with private companies and investments in advanced technologies, the nation is making significant progress in its efforts to become a major player in the space exploration industry.
In 2020, Saudi Arabia launched its first-ever satellite into orbit and became the 33rd country to achieve such a feat. This has opened up opportunities for further advancements in research and development, as well as exploring new avenues for collaboration with other countries.
The government also plans on investing heavily in advanced aerospace technology including solar farming satellites.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has also become an active participant in global dialogues related to space exploration, such as the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).
On the 12th of January 2023, the UK and Saudi Arabian governments met to discuss aggressive plans for collaboration in science and technology, including the possibility of investing in the development of outer space-based solar power.
His Excellency (HE) Abdullah Al-Swaha, the Saudi Arabian Minister of Communications and Information Technology and Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission met with Business Secretary Grant Shapps to discuss a potential agreement that could open up significant business opportunities for British companies.
Each country may make a sizable investment in the development of space-based solar power (SBSP) in the years to come thanks to a partnership between the UK company Space Solar Ltd. and NEOM, a new Saudi city being built in the Tabuk Province to incorporate smart city innovations, top-notch technology, and data intelligence.
According to SBSP, solar energy will be captured using solar panels on a very big spacecraft in geostationary orbit, and will then be sent through radio to a fixed location on Earth.
Its capacity to provide clean energy day and night, all year long, and in any weather is one of its key advantages over wind and terrestrial solar energy. As costs quickly decline, interest in technology has increased in recent years.
UK Business Secretary’s Comments
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said:
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is on an ambitious journey to modernize its economy and society, which opens up a host of opportunities for burgeoning British businesses, exporting UK expertise that could transform global access to renewable energy, including space-based solar power.
Collaboration on a global scale is an essential part of realizing the UK’s ambitions in science and innovation, which is why I am excited to be here in the Gulf – where we are now playing an integral role in influencing energy transition plans – to develop our bilateral relationship with a state so open to business, and with aspirations so grand.
In addition to social reform and increased human rights, Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” demonstrates positive signals of progress; it is full of opportunities for the UK economy, with the potential for space-based solar partnership being just one example.
Any upcoming finance in association with Saudi Arabia will be evaluated for value for money and investment security.
The partnership between the UK and Saudi Arabia is a great example of how countries can come together to pursue ambitious goals in science, technology, and renewable energy production.
The possibility of investing in space-based solar power shows that both nations are committed to making progress on their respective Vision 2030 initiatives while also creating business opportunities for British companies.
While any potential finance associated with this venture will be carefully evaluated for value and security, it’s clear that there could be significant rewards ahead if successful.
We look forward to seeing what comes from this exciting collaboration as we move closer to a future powered by clean, sustainable energy sources!
Sources: THX News, Saudi Space Commission & The UK Government.