A SCOTS scientist has received a multi-million pound Euro-grant to look at how to make the sun 'brighter' -and boost solar power.

Professor Colin McInnes of the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering is aiming to shed light on the future of solar power generation from space.

And his new project to explore the possibility of using space-based reflectors to shine additional sunlight towards future large-scale solar power farms at dawn and dusk has won backing from the European Research Council.

Professor McInnes has received a €2.5m ERC Advanced Grant to support five years of research into new ways of maximising solar power generation.

Professor McInnes’ project, titled ‘SOLSPACE: Enhancing Global Clean Energy Services Using Orbiting Solar Reflectors’, will employ four post-doctoral 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.

With there being an ambitious target of cutting carbon emissions by 75% by 2030, Scots are being encouraged to see the huge potential of renewable energy.

New figures show the equivalent of 90% of Scotland's electricity consumption now comes from renewable sources - an increase of 14% year-on-year.

It is estimated that there are currently more than 56,000 households across Scotland with domestic solar PV systems. It is predicted by the Solar Trade Association that Scotland's installed capacity will reach 1.5 gigawatts (1.5 billion watts) by 2030.

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The Committee on Climate Change estimates that the UK’s solar power capacity will have to triple by 2030 in order to be on track for the Government’s legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.


But disproportioante business rates has been seen in the industry as the biggest barrier to the deployment of large rooftop solar installations today.

The Solar Trade Association say a nationwide roll-out of zero-interest loans utilised successfully in Scotland, through the Home Energy Scotland scheme, was likely to drive consumer demand and ensure the 60% of households who want to get solar are more able to.

The cost of a typical 4kW domestic system has fallen significantly over the past decade, from approximately £12,000 in 2010 to around £5,000 today.

Professor McInnes's 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.

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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.

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.

Professor McInnes 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 delivery of global clean energy services is one the key challenges for the 21st century. 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.”

The ERC Advanced Grant is the latest in a series of space-related research projects which Professor McInnes has helped lead at the University of Glasgow, including the development of the Integrated Space and Exploration Technology Laboratory at the James Watt School of Engineering.

The SOLSPACE award is one of 185 ERC Advanced Grants announced by the European Research Council, totalling a €450m investment in research.

The President of the European Research Council (ERC), Professor Mauro Ferrari, said: “I am glad to announce a new round of ERC grants that will back cutting-edge, exploratory research, set to help Europe and the world to be better equipped for what the future may hold."