The Luna Ring: Electric power generated by a belt of solar cells around the lunar equator could be transmitted and beamed to the Earth from the near side of the Moon. Image credit: Shimizu Corporation.

The Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese construction firm, has recently proposed a plan to harness solar energy on a larger scale than almost any previously proposed concept. Their ambitious plan involves building a belt of solar cells around the Moon’s 6,800-mile (11,000-kilometer) equator, converting the electricity to powerful microwaves and lasers to be beamed at Earth, and finally converting the beams back to electricity at terrestrial power stations. The Luna Ring concept, the company says, could meet the entire world’s energy needs.

Robots would play the primary role in building the Luna Ring. Teleoperated 24 hours a day from the Earth, The robots would be teleoperated from Earth to level the lunar landscape and assemble machines and equipment in orbit before they are landed on the Moon. A team of astronauts would support the robots on-site.

Due to the massive amount of solar panels and other materials needed for the project, lunar resources would be used to the fullest extent possible. Water could be produced near the equator by reducing lunar soil with hydrogen imported from Earth. Lunar resources could also be used to make cementing material and concrete, while solar-heat treatments could help produce bricks, glass fibers, and other structural materials needed for the project.

The Luna Ring itself would initially have a width of a few kilometers, but could be extended up to 400 kilometers wide. The electric power generated by the solar cells would be transmitted by electric cables to transmission facilities on the near side of the Moon, which is constantly facing Earth. After the electricity is converted into microwave beams and laser beams, 20-kilometer-diameter antennas would beam the power to receivers on Earth. A guidance radio beacon would ensure accurate transmission to the receivers. The energy would then be converted back to electricity and supplied to existing grids, or possibly converted to hydrogen for fuel or storage.

Image credit: Shimizu Corporation

The Luna Ring could achieve 24/7 continuous clean energy generation, potentially ending our reliance on limited natural resources. Generating power from solar panels in space can be considerably more effective than terrestrial applications which are limited by long periods of darkness during night time. A space-based system in continuous sunlight essentially doubles the total power generated on Earth in the same 24 hour period.

With virtually no atmosphere on the moon there will be no bad weather or clouds that could inhibit the efficiency of the solar panels, but the effort will have to contend with lunar dust that can be stirred up from the surface by various processes (micrometeorites impacts, solar wind, surface charging, etc.). The company will almost certainly have to figure out ways of tending to the solar panels to keep any transferred dust from coating, scratching, or otherwise inhibiting the efficiency of the solar panel cells.

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff
Source: Lisa Zyga;

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