A solar power plant on the moon! That’s what The Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese company is proposing. The idea is to construct an array of solar cells around the Moon’s equator to harvest solar energy and beam it back to Earth. The ‘Luna ring’, as it has been named, would consist of materials derived from the lunar soil along its 6800 mile equator. The initial construction would only stretch a couple of miles but this could be expanded as fast as necessary. Sounds like science fiction, but the plans have been drawn up with every intention of accomplishing the project.
Eventually, with enough solar cells the array could generate a continuous stream of power from the moon, which receives an uninterrupted, constant exposure to the Sun’s radiation on its lunar hemisphere. It’s certainly an ambitious plan; the construction of such a project would pose a vast financial and material resource expense. The logistics of getting all the materials and equipment to the moon in the first place, manufacturing tele-operated robots to do the actual construction on the Moon’s surface, and maintaining such a structure in space, is probably the biggest technological challenge and the boldest human architectural design yet!
The 30 year multi-phase project envisions creating construction materials using a combination of strategies. Water, which will be imperative in the construction process and in maintenance and cooling, could be produced by reducing lunar soil with hydrogen imported from Earth. Concrete can be produced by extracting cementing material. By utilising solar-heat treatment processes, it’s proposed that they can create bricks, ceramics and glass fibres.
The energy would be ‘beamed’ to Earth through our atmosphere, which is virtually transparent to microwaves and lazars, especially in areas with little cloud cover. The microwaves, guided by radio beacons would be collected by transmission antennas about 20m in diameter. This microwave energy could then be converted directly into DC electricity.
Countries all over the world and their receiving stations would pick up these transmissions and relay them into their respective national grids. It has been suggested that international consortiums of nations and/or companies could buy stakes or shares in the Luna Ring to aid its construction. Each partner would then have rights to construct receiving stations at the geographical location of their choice. This green energy resource could provide a great deal of the Earth’s power needs one day, and its slow development would work brilliantly, weaning us off polluting sources of power.
Shimizu is proposing to start work sometime in 2035 so we won’t be receiving Luna Ring energy for quite some time; in fact Shimizu are relying on several technological developments to be achieved in that time, in order for the project to be realised. They also hope that by the time they come to the point of construction, we will have a more developed in-space infrastructure.
Does all this sound a bit far-fetched to you? Well this project is only in the idea development stage at the moment, but Shimizu’s proposal could become a reality in time. To some, it seems like a very logical and realistic step in humanity’s technological development, to reach out to the moon as our closest celestial body, for any resources it may hold that can benefit and protect our ever increasing expansion and development here on earth.