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.