Energy on tap from space


Luton based Electronics Design and Manufacturing company Jaltek has been part of an initiative to launch the first solar farm into space.

The successful demonstration of the World's first prototype, which could pave the way to a constant supply of energy - from space - using 360-degree beam steering capability with no moving parts, is the idea of Oxfordshire-based Space Solar.

The consortium behind the initiative was led by David Homfray, Mike Hontoir and Anja Frey of Space Solar and also included Neil Buchanan of Queens University Belfast (QUB), Debbie Fellows of Wave RF, Ian cash of International Electric Company and  Jaltek.

The aim is to power more than a million homes by the 2030s with a mile-wide complex of mirrors and solar panels orbiting 22,000 miles above the plane. Solar panels capture 13 times more energy in space than they do on the ground because the light intensity is higher and there's no atmosphere, clouds or night. Even though some energy would be lost by the time it is beamed back to Earth and connected to the electricity grid, it would still far outstrip solar generation on the ground. But it's the production of power around the clock that makes space-based solar energy attractive as a supplier of base-load power to back up ground based renewables at a similar cost.

The first step was to build a prototype to demonstrate the technology on earth. During the initial concept meeting the team targeted a demonstrator within 8 months, with deadlines for hardware coming in August 2023 and December 2023, both of which were hit resulting in the working demonstrator in March 2024. The technology was shown to work for the first time at Queen's University Belfast, with a wireless beam successfully ‘steered’ across a lab to turn on a light.

Jaltek’s Technical Director Chris Day said: “We were involved in the design of the prototype from concept to final delivery and successful demonstration. Our role included consultation from the initial concept, hardware development, PCB layout, PCB fabrication, materials procurement and PCB assembly. Working on Harrier has been so rewarding. We got to work with so many talented people, use pioneering technology and produce a groundbreaking application. We’re excited to progress this all the way.’

David Homfray CTO for Space Solar said: “This has been such an incredible accomplishment. I set the team such a short time frame to do this and they not only succeeded but surpassed all our expectations. This wouldn't have been possible without the whole team and the efforts they all put into making the Space Solar journey so successful in this early stage. We have a tight understanding of what the product looks like with some of the most detailed design work done in the world. Alongside this real world demonstration we have the tools to deliver in time for Net Zero and provide energy equity. I'm so proud of what we have done together.”