Whether you’re covering deserts, ugly parking lots, canals, or even sunny lakes with solar panels, clouds will occasionally get in the way—and every day the sun must set. No problem, says the European Space Agency: Just put the solar arrays in space.
The agency recently announced a new exploratory program called Solaris, which aims to figure out if it is technologically and economically feasible to launch solar structures into orbit, use them to harness the sun’s power, and transmit energy to the ground.
If this concept comes to fruition, by sometime in the 2030s Solaris could begin providing always-on space-based solar power. Eventually, it could make up 10 to 15 percent of Europe’s energy use, playing a role in the European Union’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.