A Japanese company has been exploring the possibility of solar-paneling the Moon that would our orbiting neighbor into colossal solar power plant.
Shimizu, a giant civil engineering and construction firm, wants to lay a belt of solar panels that willÂ built almost entirely by remote-controlled robots and would run around the 6,800 mile lunar equator and be 248 miles in width. Then the Luna Ring would relay the constant supply of energy to â€śreceiving stationsâ€ť on Earth by way of lasers or microwave transmission.
This idea gets around two major hurdles for solar power, as there is no weather or darkness to curb electricity production on the moon. If operating in ship-shape, Shimizu says it could continuously send 13,000 terawatts of power back to Earth. By comparison, the total installed electricity generation summer capacity in the United States was 1,050.9 gigawatts.
Shimizu is reluctant to put a price tag on the construction costs involved but, given adequate funding, the company believes construction work could get under way as early as 2035.Â Given the gigantic sizes of the solar panels collection, the company plans to use robots instead of humans to get the work done. The humans will only supervise the whole process.
In a statement, the company said, â€śA shift from economical use of limited resources to the unlimited use of clean energy is the ultimate dream of all mankind. The Luna Ring, our lunar solar power generation concept, translates this dream into reality through ingenious ideas coupled with advanced space technologies.
â€śVirtually inexhaustible, non-polluting solar energy is the ultimate source of green energy that brings prosperity to nature as well as our lives. Shimizu Corporation proposes the Luna Ring for the infinite coexistence of mankind and the Earth.â€ť
Until March 2011, and the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan had relied heavily on nuclear power. There is a general acceptance that Japan, which shut down its last functioning nuclear reactor in September, will need to restart its nuclear plants in the short term, but the disaster has focused new attention on alternative – and safer – forms of energy.
Shimizu first came up with its Luna Ring proposal before the accident at Fukushima, but the ongoing crisis means it is attracting renewed interest.
If this “Shimizu Dream” is ever actualised, the company plans to exploit as many lunar resources as possible when constructing the Solar Belt. Its brochure states that lunar soil can be used to make ceramics, glass, oxygen, concrete, solar cells and water. The brochure goes into further detail, explaining that water can be produced by reducing lunar soil with hydrogen that is imported from the Earth.
As the Independent.ie reports, this is not the first time solar energy generated in space has been mooted as an answer to the earth’s dwindling energy resources. NASA has been investigating space-based solar systems for decades.
And not everyone is convinced – Prof Werner Hofer, director of the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy at the University of Liverpool, said: â€śDoing this in space is not a good idea because it is fantastically expensive and you probably never recover the energy you have to invest.â€ť