Japanese lunar light farming

1 06 2011

Rendering of a solar array ring on the Moon's surface. (Credit: Shimizu Corporation)

Definition of mixed emotions: Reading an ambitious plan recently released by the Shimizu Corporation of Japan that effectively wields fear of radiation to incentivize lunar colonization for solar power generation. 

Wow.  While I abhor anything that preys upon the irrational fear of nuclear energy, I’m all for the use of solar power.  (I’d like to make the ironic point here that “solar power” is also nuclear energy – the result of a giant nuclear fusion reactor, albeit a natural one.)  I’m also certainly for anything that makes an extraterrestrial business case, and I further endorse any plan that leads us off-world so that we can begin developing the practical know-how to live there.  Throw in the fact that the endeavor would ease stress on the terrestrial ecosystem at the same time, and the idea seems like a home run.

Diagram depicting the lunar power delivery process. (Credit: Shimizu Corporation)

How does it work?  Quite simply.  Called the LUNA RING, solar arrays are to be installed across the lunar surface in an equatorial belt.  Panels on the sun-facing side of the Moon then deliver energy via circumferential transmission lines to laser and microwave transmitters on the Earth-facing side.  These transmitters then beam the energy to receiving stations on the Earth, providing power enough for all.

Sound too good to be true?  Well, it may be.  The problem, like many great ideas, is funding.  The technology is all but completely available to make an attempt, but the capital costs here are incomprehensible.  Yet-to-be-invented tele-robotics plays a major role in construction, (which as I’ve previously mentioned is a very smart move,) and when weighed in combination with untried lunar transport, operations, and manufacturing techniques, equates to a seriously steep R&D curve.

However, this sort of distance planning can demonstrate that the basic elements already exist, which may be exactly what we need to convince  governments and the power industry that the venture is possible.  And, if Japan suddenly puts the economic weight of the government behind a plan like this, e.g., by making a call to return to the Moon and by actually launching small-scale versions of this system, then we should all take note… and I believe we should all participate.

The International Space Station is an endeavor that has and will continue to benefit many.  An international effort to establish renewable lunar-terrestrial power production can benefit everyone, both immediately as well as by developing the skills we’ll need to expand into the cosmos.

Good on ya’, Shimizu Corporation, for thinking big.  Hopefully it’ll catch on.

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5 responses

2 06 2011
Japanese lunar light farming (via Astrowright) | Business, Technology and the Future

[…] Definition of mixed emotions: Reading an ambitious plan recently released by the Shimizu Corporation of Japan that effectively wields fear of radiation to incentivize lunar colonization for solar power generation.  Wow.  While I abhor anything that preys upon the irrational fear … Read More […]

6 06 2011
astrowriter

What an interesting idea. It’s kind of unfortunate we’re tidally locked to the moon. Otherwise, we could probably get more energy out of the deal.

30 06 2011
Mary M

Do you think a large energy corporation would be able to do this on its own, without the help of government? I know that’s a random question, but I’m just trying to understand the huge amount of money it would cost. I love this idea, but i hate the idea of business and government corresponding in ANY way (unless one is suing the other). But this might just convince me that a little cooperation between the two in special situations might not be so bad…

30 06 2011
Lloyd Jenkins Jr.

Wow why didn’t I think of that! This is a great idea. The Sun is a marvelous machine that is just giving away precious energy. If only we had the capability of constructing a Dyson sphere. The LUNA RING would only add energy to the equation. Now if the Earth’s populace would just chip in a few dollars (euros, yen, etc.) we may have this as a possible solution in future.

I agree with Astrowright on several issues mentioned above. One is tele-robotics; the other is ameliorating our know-how on outer-world developments. I am a big supporter of these ideas.

12 04 2014
Jason

Firstly, the construction of solar panels has already killed more people than can be linked to every nuclear power plant accident in their history. For the cost of getting all those panels and transmitters up there, we could build enough safe Gen 4 nuclear reactors (impossible to melt down, recycle old waste fuel) to power the planet a few times over. If you doubt me, look at France, they’re 80% nuclear and have the lowest greenhouse emissions I’ve ever seen.

I do agree that we need to get out there, and have a practical reason to do so. I’m pretty sure capturing an asteroid should be high on the to-do list.

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