LUNA RING: Solar Energy from the Moon


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Japan’s ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis has spawned some rapid-fire developments for future energy production. This weekend, plans to initiate the compulsory installation of solar energy panels on every building in the country by 2030 were announced, along with a proposed plan that promises to be the largest public infrastructure in human history: the LUNA RING.

Shimizu Corporation construction firm’s research branch, CSP, unveiled a long-term planning project to install a belt of photovoltaic panels across the surface of the Moon. Power gathered from the 13,000 terrawatts of continuous solar energy the Moon’s surface receives daily would be beamed back to an Earth-based receiving station via microwave or laser transmission, where it would then be used to power public offices, hospitals and schools across the globe. A staff of remotely controlled robots would be in constant rotation to make repairs and provide maintenance for the LUNA RING installation, though the structure would require some human personnel on-site. To make the process more efficient, the proposed plan includes building the LUNA RING’s solar panels on the lunar surface using local materials, rather than launching pre-built panels to the site.

Though the “very optimistic forecast” for the project’s launch is 2035, the necessary components for building LUNA RING are already in wide use: photovoltaic panels, remote controlled robots, laser and microwave transmitters are utilized in innumerable capacities right here on the ground. In this sense, LUNA RING seems not-so-far fetched. However, when trying to determine the economic requirements for such a massive undertaking, CSP’s Tetsuji Yoshida answers with a non-answer: “[P]rice is a human tool for exchanging goods. Maybe this type of project could be out of range of cost considerations. We would have to find a new word for it?” Certainly this is indicative of the incalculable ambition of LUNA RING’s enormousness. It rings a bit of Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact; perhaps for a project like LUNA RING, one with such sweeping goals and in need of seemingly impossible resources, a global cooperative is the only means by which Shimizu Corporation’s vision can be realized.

For more about LUNA RING and details about the proposed technology, check out the Shimizu’s Dream page.

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42 Responses to LUNA RING: Solar Energy from the Moon

  1. It would be nice to have anything such as this project expand into space like this, but the Moon's craters are a clear indication of the most obvious problem.
    Now if they can create break resistant panels to withstand meteors that would be a plus for all of us.

    They'll probably deploy a team of 80s video game  pros to play real life asteroids, but people would freak out if gamers had access to powerful lasers cannons in space. 

    • The moon doesn't receive any more meteor/asteroid impact then earth; it just doesn't have an atmosphere to burn up the small ones, and it bears the scars of the existing ones for much longer than the earth.

      It's no more a problem then it is to all the satellites orbiting the earth.

  2. As nice as this would be, I get chills thinking about any government having the ability to shoot high powered lasers with enough energy to power cities from space. It's got bad idea written all over it.

  3. If this thing ever gets built I guess we can quit worrying about cell phones causing brain cancer or WIFI radio signals making us sick.  There's nothing like stray emissions from a 13,000 Terawatt microwave tower or a stray 13,000 Terawatt laser beam scooting across the face of the earth to cook our collective gooses.

  4. my biggest problem is that they would be ruining the most iconic symbol of the night.  What makes them think that every other country on the planet would be okay with them doing this on the moon.  i think its more likely to be a troll than a real thing since fusion power would be much more reliable by then

  5. Billbo: The moon has many craters and the Earth doesn't, not because the moon gets hit by meteors more often than does the Earth, but because the lack of an atmosphere and weather on the moon means that any large crater there will last and be visible for hundreds of millions, even billions of years. Even the largest impact craters on the Earth are weathered away in hundreds or at most thousands of years. (yes, on Earth micro-meteorites burn up in the atmosphere first, but I assume you're talking about impacts large enough to cause structural/functional problems with this proposed installation.)
    Secondly, any power plant like this would be build modularly, so that if there were an impact at any one point, there would be fall-back redundancies to keep the system operational until repairs could be made.

  6. While I love the out-of-this-world idea, it seems Shimuzu is forgetting that there are thousands of square miles right here on earth that can accommodate the system. All the while saving the cost of space travel, laser transmitters, and maintenance.

  7. "…would then be used to power public offices, hospitals and schools across the globe…"

    Would the power be incompatible with brothels, night clubs, and porn studios?  Just wondering.

  8. So, a small moon shooting a massively powerful laser at a planet…. haven't I seen this movie? As I recall, it didn't end so well for those folks on Alderaan…

    Don't even get me started on how f'ing ugly it is!

  9. Adding thousands of terawatts of external energy to a global ecosystem without any way to release waste energy will cause temperatures to rise, possibly dramatically, and lead to a desert planet.

    • Except, of course, that they're firing at the OCEAN – the largest and most effective heat sink on the planet – and into the NORTHERN climate, which is starting to suffer from receeding oceanic currents capable of delivering heat to the northern hemisphere. Besides, if you actually knew anything about thermal dynamics, you'd know that even that ammount of energy would be more like trying to boil the ocean by the tea-pot-full.

  10.  I like this, especially if they use radio rather than lasers as the transmission method. No radio antenna has that narrow a beam – and if you ived nearby you could just as easily build your own receiving station in your backyard. Free power!

  11. This is both crazy and awesome all at once. Totally impossible to do in the current political and economic climate, it'd also face an astronomical amount of resistance from several groups around the world. I'll give them bonus points for thinking outside the box, we need more new concepts like this.

    Glad to see that someone's already made a Star Wars reference, too. All we need is a trench in the middle of that giant ring!

  12. we have the ability to solve tons of energy problems… and youre worried that the government will use it to shoot lasers?
    you gotta put down the comic books, kid.

      • Artor does have a point. The problem with microwave transmission is that a powerful, directed HERV blast can do significant damage to organics. "Cooked from the inside" springs to mind. Small scale example: point a microwave transmitter dish at a computer. It fries – or explodes. Point it at a Person, they develop what looks like a painful sunburn. Point it long enough, they cook.

        Still and all, I would prefer to believe – perhaps naively – that humanity is both capable of such feats of engineering and also capable of not exploiting them for destructive purposes.

  13. This makes no sense! If you could lift all the materials in the first place, why would you want to put them at the bottom of another hole? (ie. the Lunar surface) Only half the panels could get sunlight at any moment, and maintenance would involve a permanent lunar colony, and regular heavy lifting at both ends of the trip. Beaming the energy would lose alot in attenuation over 250k miles. A much better idea would be a satellite in near-earth orbit. It could be as large as you wanted, and 100% of the panels could get light at all times. It would be especially nice if it were the outer end of a beanstalk.

  14. Beanstalks! Imagine the power available if you stretch a carbon fiber cable from ground through the ionosphere. And so many more benefits!

  15. Except that the reason that solar power is considered less viable here on Earth is that there is so much energy deflection from the atmosphere that the levels that reach our surface are significantly lessened. Aka – it's not as viable or as effective inside the atmosphere. It's so much less effective, in fact, that the cost of the transmitters is completely nullified (and then some) by the added power output.

  16. Except that the reason that solar power is considered less viable here on Earth is that there is so much energy deflection from the atmosphere that the levels that reach our surface are significantly lessened. Aka – it’s not as viable or as effective inside the atmosphere. It’s so much less effective, in fact, that the cost of the transmitters is completely nullified (and then some) by the added power output.

  17. You're all dumb.  This is clearly impossible.  All you well-intending liberal arts majors need to get back to being unemployed and leave solving problems to people who know what they're talking about. 

  18. Oh great. The rising radiation levels in japan have gone to their heads. This is one of the most insane 'techno fix to the energy crisis' ideas I've ever heard. Just a FEW of the MANY obvious and fatal problems:
    * Microwaves beamed from the Moon… uh yeah, and the beam divergence over that distance (even if the source aperture was the full diameter of the Moon) is uh… approximately several times the diameter of the Earth. So apart from the huge energy loss, the entire Moon-facing side of Earth would be getting cooked.
    * Lasers… you've got to be kidding, right? Converting electricity to light via lasing is one of the most inefficient energy conversions known. Not to mention converting it back to electricity at Earth.
    * Even if either microwaves or lasers could transmit that sort of energy usefully, just building such a system will have every megalomaniac and hacker with dreams of world domination coming out of the woodwork. Many of them already in existing governments. And then there's plain old technical screwups.
    * "Maintenance robots". On the Moon. Very funny. This from the nation that can't even clean up the rubble around a busted nuclear reactor site. Guys, get back to us when you actually have working general purpose, reliable and self-guided robots with enough AI to splice a cable together on their own.
    * Also, good luck convincing every nation on Earth to agree to allow Japan to screw up the sight of the Moon in the night sky. Heritage of Mankind, number one romantic symbol, and all that. You'd think by now Japan  would be getting tired of being nuked. Even if the recent 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th times were own goals.

  19. Interesting idea. This is why the U.S. is losing their lead in the world. No guts, o glory! And maybe it is about time that we passed the torch. As an American, I grew up with the certainty of humans in space. When it was learned that our whole space program was a ruse to beat the Soviets, I for one was greatly disappointed. Now that the Soviet threat is gone, so is our space program. It is clear that no American company is going to anything interesting in this regard, except perhaps for Burt Rhutan.

     All the talk of the impossibility and fear of government use of the technology is not grounded in reality.

    The technology already exists in one form or another to build robotic solar panel factories. The government already has enough nuclear weapons to kill everyone, so what is left to fear? There are no environmental issues to deal with since there is no life to disturb and quite frankly, I'd much rather have my strip mining done in a place that is not so visible or close to home. I suspect that a ribbon of solar panels a mile wide and a thousand miles long would still be invisible to the naked eye, so the idea of an eyesore is not really a problem.

    What it would do is: Create a reason to go there on a regular basis. This would eventually result in a tourist trade and eventually, a stepping off point to the rest of the solar system.

    I wonder if all the commenters will feel the same when they have to start living with daily brownouts because there is just not enough power to keep their iPads running.

    On the other hand, we could just bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the problem will go away by itself.

  20. YES, THAT's what we need. A set of super lasers beaming down from the Moon down to the Earth, with one of the reception stations just outside of your home town, to cut down on transmission costs.
      Sorry about being off target by .0001 % and burning that hole through your home and the kid's elementary school English room.
      The nice thing, unlike a meltdown, the laser can be turned off.. Yea, Right !!
     

  21. YES, THAT’s what we need. A set of super lasers beaming down from the Moon down to the Earth, with one of the reception stations just outside of your home town, to cut down on transmission costs.
      Sorry about being off target by .0001 % and burning that hole through your home and the kid’s elementary school English room.
      The nice thing, unlike a meltdown, the laser can be turned off.. Yea, Right !!
     

  22. How about the dude's and dudette's that have to man the system on the Moon.  Anyone seen the movie "Moon" ?  LOL.