A Japanese company has proposed an outlandish idea to meet Earth’s future energy demands—a ring of solar panels around the lunar surface
© Shimizu Corporation
The moon shines down on our rippling oceans and corn-studded fields, transmuting the sun’s fierce golden rays into its own pale, ethereal light. It’s beautiful and, to the Japanese construction firm Shimizu, it’s a giant electrical outlet.
“The moon’s face receives 13,000 trillion watts (terawatts) of solar power continuously,” writes Patrick Tucker in The Futurist(May-June 2011). “This is 650 times the amount of power the entire human population would need.” Engineers at Shimizu have dreamed up a plan for harnessing this energy. It’s a large-scaled, seemingly inconceivable plan that involves remote-controlled robots building thousands of photovoltaic panels out of moon dirt, assembling the panels into a gigantic lunar girdle belt, and laser-beaming 220 terawatts of annually collected voltage toward Earth. The project is called LUNA RING, and is still very much in the conceptual stage. “But the LUNA RING is buildable,” claims Tucker, who met with Shimizu engineer Tetsuji Yoshia at company headquarters in Japan.
Scientists have spent decades trying to figure out how to gather solar energy from outer space. Giant solar-absorbing satellites have been the main proposal, but the weight and bulk are prohibitive, along with the amount of expensive rocket fuel needed to shoot the giants into orbit. “So we chose the moon as a power station,” Yoshia explained to Tucker. “We already have a natural satellite.”
The sunlight-soaked moon would be ideal for solar energy collection. The lunar surface is a pure vacuum free of Earth’s dense atmospheric shroud, “which interrupts the flow of solar power with varying day-night cycles, clouds, fog, rain, smoke, dust, and volcanic ash,” explains The Futurist.