SPACE-BASED radar technology could be used by the renewable energy sector to drive down costs, according to academics at the University of Strathclyde.

The Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology is already being used to help protect and manage marine environments, as well as to detect illegal logging in tropical forests and to aid disaster relief.

Now scientists are exploring its potential for use in aiding the take-up of renewable energy.

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SAR systems are carried on spacecraft like the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, and can detect movements of just a few millimetres.

The systems use the flightpath of their platforms to electronically simulate a huge antenna or aperture that generates remote sensing imagery. Data from each cycle is stored electronically and this data is recombined to create a high-resolution image of the area that has been covered.

This technology was used in the space shuttle during the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission – an operation to map the world in 3D, which started in 2000.

It could have applications for energy companies, such as structural monitoring of offshore wind turbines, detecting fallen pylons in remote regions, or identifying future sites for turbines.

The technology could also enhance the efficiency of network monitoring at a time of growing global demand for energy, and help to reduce energy costs, as well as helping to support the cost of using the technology in future humanitarian programmes.

SAR’s potential will be outlined today at an event hosted by the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications at Strathclyde University’s Technology and Innovation Centre.

It forms part of Engage with Strathclyde, an annual week-long series of events aimed at promoting and enhancing partnerships with business, industry the third sector and the public.

Dr Malcolm Macdonald, the centre for excellence director, said: “We’re looking to open up conversation with industry about how it could use space technology in a way that may not have been traditionally thought about.

“Very small shifts in buildings and landscapes are difficult to detect but SAR can pick up on this and, with the use of ‘before’ and ‘after’ images, can show where a movement has occurred.

“It can also detect things that may otherwise take time to be discovered because of the remoteness of the location.

“Radar also has the advantage of not depending on the weather and being able to detect features even through cloud or rain.”

Energy is a key area within the university’s £89 million Technology and Innovation Centre.

Its energy research is developing advanced renewables technologies, smart grids and leading-edge design for marine and aerospace electrical networks.

Strathclyde is one of three hubs of the UK-wide Satellite Applications Catapult, established to help businesses tap into the UK’s multi-billion pound space sector.

The Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications brings together expertise from the science knowledge base and the business community, enabling companies to use satellite data in new ways, from supporting the energy industry to planning the future cities.