Saudi Arabia is taking a bold step forward in the race to harness the power of the sun, by investing in the development of space-based solar power. The kingdom is partnering with the UK’s Space Solar Ltd to fund a $500m megaproject that aims to beam unlimited solar power from space to Earth. The $4.3m initial funding will be used to further develop the science and feasibility of the project.
The ambitious plans, which were discussed last week by UK Business Secretary Grant Shapps and Saudi officials, involve the use of a very large satellite orbiting above the Earth, equipped with solar panels that would collect and beam back unlimited solar energy using advanced radio technology. The technology has the potential to provide a constant, carbon-free energy source, day and night, throughout the year, and through all weather conditions.
The partnership between Space Solar and Saudi Arabia’s NEOM could see both nations committing significant investment into developing space-based solar power in the coming years. Investing in the development of space-based solar power (SBSP) in the UK could provide a multitude of benefits to the domestic space and technology sectors. The early UK investment in SBSP could attract significant private investment, leading to the creation of valuable intellectual property, job opportunities and industrial contracts. This could in turn boost the growth of the domestic space and technology industries.
This collaboration between the UK and Saudi Arabia on space-based solar power follows extensive backing for the space sector from the Business Secretary.
“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,” says UK Business Secretary Grant Shapps.
The UK and Saudi Arabia have a long-standing bilateral relationship based on trade, investment, defense, security, and energy, and the collaboration on space-based solar power is expected to strengthen this relationship even further. The partnership is also expected to be subject to value-for-money analysis and investment security scrutiny.
Space Solar’s co-CEO, Sam Adlen, says “there’s a real partnership to be developed that can have a huge impact on the future of net zero [and] energy security and really help create an era-defining, new energy source.”
Space-based solar power is a technology that has been gaining interest in recent years, as costs continue to fall rapidly. However, experts predict that any successful project would require an investment of tens of billions of dollars and would not be completed before 2040.