The news: Though it's been taking a little while to catch on, solar power is certainly nothing new. You've probably seen those huge panels somewhere near you. But what would it be like to see a strip of solar panels on our moon?
The Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese architectural, engineering and general contracting firm, has unveiled proposed plans to build a gigantic solar strip across the 11,000-mile Lunar equator in order to harness the power of the sun as a sustainable source of renewable energy. The 11,000 mile-long solar belt, or LUNA RING, would capture the sun's energy on the far side of the moon, then transfer it through a series of buried cables to the near side of the moon where it would be transported to Earth through microwaves and laser light. The energy would be collected by various semiconductor and inverters stations around the Earth to convert into DC power to provide clean energy to the world.
Because of the immense size and scope of this project, along with the fact that an entire lunar infrastructure would need to be required to start building on the moon, Shimizu Corporation is expecting this to be a two generation project which would theoretically start construction in 2035.
Image Credit: Space Industry News
The background: "Looking into the future, it's predicted that in 2030, the global population will consumer the equivalent of 17 gigatons of oil," said Tetsuji Yoshida of the Shimizu Corporation Group in charge of space development. "We envision that this LUNA RING could generate an equivalent amount of energy. And when all that energy reaches Earth, there'll be no need to produce energy from coal, oil or biomass. All the energy we need could be imported from the moon, so on the Earth, CO2 wouldn't increase, nor would any harmful gases be generated."
Other than the moon's water, Shimizu Corporation's plan uses Earthly materials, ceramics, water, glass, concrete, oxygen and solar cells, meaning they'd all have to be transported by space to the moon. And they'd be transporting a lot of materials to the moon. For perspective, the largest solar farm on American soil is 90,000 acres or around 140 miles. The LUNA RING would be 11,000 miles long. (The great wall of China is about 13,170 miles.)
A rendering of one of the microwave power receiving antennas. Image Credit: Space Industry News
The takeaway: This would be a massive undertaking, but also an awesome one. It might seem far-fetched to try to build something so insanely huge on the moon, but as we continue to eat up all of Earth's natural resources, we'll need to get more and more creative if we're to have enough energy to survive as a civilization. Though the LUNA RING may seem like something thought up for an eighth grade science fair or in a mediocre sci-fi novel, the fact that Shimizu is actually putting real effort and thought into it means there actually could come a day when we look up into the sky and see the moon clad with a giant belt of solar panels.