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Published on December 2nd, 2013 | by Joshua S Hill

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LUNA RING To Turn Moon Into Solar Power Collector



The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan in March of 2011 has dealt the country numerous hits — personal, social, and economical, as well as a massive hit to their power infrastructure, with public and international pressure causing the decommissioning of almost all their nuclear reactors. As such, scientists from Japan and without have been looking for a means to create enough electricity to power one of the planet’s economic powerhouses.

A private company has revealed a new and certainly unique method, which quite literally has them reaching for the moon.

Japanese construction firm Shimizu Corporation has unveiled a proposal which would see a solar panel array built around the moon’s equator, collecting solar energy to then be sent back to Earth. The project, entitled LUNA RING, could see construction begin as early as 2035.

“A shift from economical use of limited resources to the unlimited use of clean energy is the ultimate dream of all mankind,” Shimizu wrote on their website. “The LUNA RING, our lunar solar power generation concept, translates this dream into reality through ingenious ideas coupled with advanced space technologies.”

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Using robots to lay down concrete made from moon soil around the entirety of the moon’s equator — 400 km wide by 11,000 km long — the power generated through the solar array would then be transferred along power cables to microwave power transmission antennas which would then beam the electricity to receiving stations located around the Pacific Rim.

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While the cost and hurdles in place have not been addressed, and suggest that Shimizu are not entirely serious about the plan, it does make it very clear the lengths to which Japan are willing to go to gain energy independence.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium.   I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.



  • itellu3times

    I like it! Everyone who has studied this in the last 50 years knows that, unless ground-based fusion works out, space-based solar is going to be needed. And everyone knows that for large-scale projects, building on the moon – if we can do it! – is far more energy efficient than launching from Earth to geosynchronous orbit. So, if this can be done robotically, using moon materials, it wins. All the rest of the issues are long since worked out – the energy density of the beam from space to Earth is not that intense, won’t boil your coffee even if you walk into it.

  • Nandhini Sukumar

    How is it possible ???????it may create big impacts..

    http://www.tamilnetonline.com/electricity-from-moon/

  • ratso

    Better idea…jail J.P.Morgan and force him to reveal Tesla’s knowledge that He squelched to protect His own greedy empire.. .

  • TVR TEJA

    Assuming it is feasible,
    the clear skies not only provide uninterrupted fuel but also gives way to extra terrestrial bodies in the solar system
    how are the panels going to be guarded against the et body movements ???
    This is not a question of sarcasm but is a question I genuinely have in my mind…:)

  • Paulbee

    I do like SCi-FI

  • beernotwar

    Doesn’t it make more sense to put the panels on satellites in geosynchronous orbit? Energy use drops at night so the satellite-based energy would not be needed then. On the moon the power would only be available when the moon was in line with the receiver stations, which would be a haphazard schedule for power generation that wouldn’t synch up with load requirements.

  • Senlac

    Hey guys, you have to admit it’s not a bad idea for a Moon Colony. Having said that it is hard to judge how much energy we’ll need 20+ years from now. I’m sure solar will be a lot cheaper and more efficient. One thing I can be fairly sure about is that transportation costs to the moon are still going to be pretty high. It could work if the colony can make the panels on the moon from local materials or captured asteroids. It would make sense to move a lot of industry activity to the moon, especially for space exploration.

  • Doug

    A ground-based solution would undoubtedly be less expensive and require fewer resources to construct.

    • jeffhre

      The Sahara Desert is closer to Japan than the moon, making maintenance and repair of the microwave sending stations substantially cheaper. With cooperative efforts the Gobi Desert could provide similar resources.

  • mike_dyke

    Solar panels to circle the moon – That means that only about 50-60% of the panels are generating at any one time due to the moon’s rotation (plus a bit if you count reflected earth light)
    Microwave transmissions – probably lossy and would really annoy the astronomers who examine the sky at those wave lengths. What happens to satellites/space craft/astronauts if they go through those beams?
    Receivers on earth – and if some unfriendly person got hold of the controls and used e.g. New York as a receiver? What will those beams do to the atmosphere?
    All this just to get some more electricity.
    I agree – you could do it to support lunar bases etc, but forget about sending the power here. We probably would be able to get the electricity cheaper from earth-side generators.

    • jeffhre

      “We probably would be able to get the electricity cheaper from earth-side generators”

      Understatement?

  • John_with_a_B

    All these “pie in the sky” solar power ideas have one thing in common. Collecting energy and beaming it down to Earth from space would have a strong impact on the planet’s energy budget. Sure, emissions of greenhouse gases are avoided, but the energy is being added to that which the Earth receives from the sun directly. It is like foolishly slipping a few hot water bottles or hot coals under a blanket and wondering why the temperature in the bed is getting warmer. All this energy would end up as heat that the planet is having trouble ridding itself of already.

    Efficient use of the energy we get already from the sun would be great, but adding to it from outside sources will make global warming much worse in a hurry. I am sure it may have its place in limited applications like extremely remote locations or temporary facilities on a very small scale (ei, measured in kilowatts), but to pump Gigawatts of energy under the atmosphere from off the planet is pure madness!

    I hope they people that think these ideas up can turn their attention to more beneficial research before they waste too much time and money developing a technology that wiser people would have no choice but to prohibit. These schemes are examples of people not understanding what the implications are of what they propose, and show us that just because something might be technically possible, it does not make them desirable, let alone economic.

    Their efforts would be better spent finding better ways to use the energy the Earth receives from the sun already more efficiently, rather than inflicting more of it on a planet that would not be able to absorb it and re-radiate it back out into space.

    I repeat, all this energy would end up as heat that the planet is having trouble ridding itself of already. They simply have it backwards! This would be a great idea if they could gather up heat from the planet and beam it back out into space!

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’m not supporting the idea. I can’t see it succeeding purely for financial reasons, but -

      The amount of energy beamed from the Moon/space to the earth would be miniscule compared to the amount of energy we receive from the Sun.

      There’s almost no way we’d get 100% of our energy from a Moon/space system. It would almost certainly be cheaper to use wind/solar/hydro/geothermal/tidal/biomass directly. Moon-beams would most likely be competing with stored wind/solar. They’d probably contribute about 20% of our electricity.

  • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

    I know Japan is energy starved but this is ridiculous… just build a few hundred wind farms, on earth….

    • Bob_Wallace

      Japan is moving pretty fast with offshore wind. They’ve got a couple of floating turbines in the water and they’re studying how they can cut the cost before they scale up.

      • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

        Bob, what’s the real deal with this moon nonsense? A distraction?

        • Bob_Wallace

          My guess is that it’s a fun idea, could work, but is a financial non-starter.

          Whiz-bang complicated solutions (like thorium molten salt reactors and flying cars) get a lot of people excited. But the KISS solutions win.

          • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

            Every day I get a thorium reactor comment as a solution. What’s the bottom line on those future reactors? I assume they aren’t as easy and clean as people think? thanks

          • Bob_Wallace

            There have some very dedicated true believers.

            I put them in the same category as vertical axis wind turbines, Stirling engines and a few other things.

            For all the basic idea has been public for a long time. People have messed around with them to some extent. But the big tell, for me, is that no one has one up and running.

            If they are as great at the YouTube video claims them to be then one would expect a large corporation would have offered to build one in the various open bidding processes we’ve seen for reactors in the last few years.

            Thorium, as a fuel, probably wouldn’t make nuclear energy cheaper. Uranium adds only $0.0075 to a kWh of electricity. Not a lot of room for savings there.

            They might be safer. But I’ve seen nothing convincing that says that they would be cheaper or faster to build. It’s the capital expense and financing that makes new nuclear $0.16/kW.

          • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

            Thanks for clarifying that. Is China still going to be the first with Thorium up and running?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Doubt it will be the US. We’re building a couple “OK, we need to be reminded that reactors take long time to build and cost a lot” reactors.
            Europe is basically done building nuclear. They’re in the phase out phase.

          • jeffhre

            Thorium at small scale was much simpler than light water reactors. If scaled I don’t see how it would be more complex than what is online now. It won’t support the weapons industry and doesn’t allow anyplace to conceal weapons grade material, so it was not chosen by Rickover in the ’60s.

          • Bob_Wallace

            With nuclear, in general, scaling down increases MWh costs.

            We have CANDU reactors right now which could use thorium. But they aren’t.
            It’s not weapons. It’s costs. New nuclear (like new coal) is very expensive.

          • jeffhre

            True. I mentioned complexity though, not cost. I enjoy simplicity. If LFTR reactors using thorium eat up the hot materials, saving us a 20,000 year storage headache, that simplicity is helpful. The idea of palming off deadly materials on people dozens of generations removed is abhorrent to me. Thorium in pebble bed reactors is a little better than what we are stuck with now.

            And thorium in conventional reactors does virtually nothing for the largest problems we face. Though if solar and wind continue on their downward trend, the prices will kill scaling of any nuclear in the short and mid term. Crystal ball went blank for the long term.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Pebble bed reactors haven’t worked to date. Too difficult to regulate the speed of the reaction.

            China and, I think, South Africa gave them a go.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Didn’t Germany try one that got a pebble lodged in an outtake pipe and started releasing radiation everywhere?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I hadn’t heard about that. In fact, I wasn’t aware that Germany had built a pebble bed. Found this on line…

            “There was a pebble bed reactor accident at Hamm-Uentrop West Germany nine days after the Chernobyl accident. On May 4 1986, a pebble became lodged in a feeder tube. Operators subsequently caused damage to the fuel during attempts to free the pebble. Radiation was released to the environs. The West German government closed down the research program because they found the reactor design unsafe.”

            http://www.tmia.com/old-website/pebbles.html

  • Bob_Wallace

    Wind and solar are now in the 5c/kWh range and heading lower. We can build storage for under 10c/kWh and store <5c wind/solar.

    Do that and we can get 60% of our electricity directly from the source for less than 5c. Get another 20% from hydro, geothermal and tidal for <10c. And get our last 20% from storage for about 10c. (60%, 20% and 20% are my guesses. You are free to make your own.)

    0.6 * .04 (wind/solar direct) + 0.2 * 0.08 (other renewables) + 0.2 * 0.10 (stored) = 0.06/kWh

    Can all that hardware be lifted into space, settled onto the surface of the Moon, be assembled, maintained, and the power shipped back to Earth and distributed for 6 cents per kWh?

    • Marion Meads

      We may be able to mine for them and manufacture them on the moon one day, but currently, it does not make economic sense when cleaner alternatives out there can be at par or cheaper than the dirty sources of energy.

    • jeffhre

      Sure it can. Send me a check for 1 trillion USD and I will show you!

  • Matt

    “The project, entitled LUNA RING, could see construction begin as early as 2035″
    22 years from now, it is not something to deal with this generations power/climate problems.

    • Kyle Field

      Even if our power usage went up 5x in the next 25yrs, this wouldnt make sense to do. We have plenty of land with solar generation potential not to mention improvements in efficiency should offset some future growth, solar generation technological improvements will reduce panels and resulting surface are required…all balanced by other renewables.

  • yu tube

    hey while we are at it let’s build a Dyson sphere too.

    • Wayne Williamson

      ;-)

  • JamesWimberley

    The only way to make this cheaper than space-based arrays (because of the cost of transport through a second gravity well) is to have everything, including the panels, manufactured in robot factories on the Moon itself.

    • Kyle Field

      Still to expensive to send the silicone, frames, parts etc up there…

    • Wayne Williamson

      I agree, the only way is to mine and manufacture everything there. At some point in the future it will probably be possible.

  • AegysLTS

    I doubt the economics would work though, since adding solar panels here on earth is a challenge by itself, let alone sending them to space…..

  • anderlan

    The only way a government would foot the bill for this is because it realizes the weaponization potential of it. This won’t (and should not) happen for a long time. Certainly large scale panel build could one day fuel heavy industry on the moon. And it’s not even a slam dunk on paper versus just building out solar on top of existing human structures on earth along with transmission or storage. The moon is only the diameter of Australia.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Good first point there (as well as the others).

  • Kyle Field

    NIce idea…but solar is not cost effective nor efficient enough to make this anywhere near a lucrative (or even feasible) idea. Japan may be limited in terms of physical real estate for panels but there are other (cheaper) ways of producing sustainable power…here on earth.

    • AegysLTS

      The funny thing is even Elon Musk himself had doubts(or just outright against) about space based solar, this from someone who owns SolarCity and SpaceX.

      • jeffhre

        Perhaps because he is in a position to calculate the costs as space travel scales up.

        Then again, didn’t IBM’s Watson think there would only be a market for a few computers a year(ostensibly in 1943).

        (For the computers IBM was theorizing about though, at a time when silicon was used mainly for beach sand, with church and office building windows and kids sandboxes filling out most of rest of the receipts, the prediction would have basically been on target.)

    • Marion Meads

      you can always float the solar panels on the ocean. You can put to use the trillions of metric tons of plastics swirling in the North Pacific Gyre as materials for your pontoons or barges that will carry the solar panels over the water. No need to spend quadrillion dollars for space based power generation.

      • Kyle Field

        Doing this makes good use of what appears to be unused surface area but will have huge impacts on sealife. algae, kelp and other life depend on the sun as the source of energy…and it is that sun that provides all of the energy to those farthest down the food chain. So…it would work yes…but it doesnt scale. That coupled with the corrosive nature of saltwater and I would also rule this out. Better than space, yes. Something to invest in? My bet is no.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Let me throw up this map again. The small green rectangles are the land area needed if we obtained 100% of our electricity from solar.

          We almost certainly won’t do that. We’ll use a mix of all sorts of renewables. My guess is that solar will be about 40% of the mix, so cut those little green spots in half.

          Rooftops and parking lots will hold most of the solar we need.

        • Marion Meads

          those garbages are currently covering the oceans and blocking the sunlight to the depths, so utilizing them will clean up the oceans without distorting the current energy balance. Besides, you can also couple this with food production. The area of the gyre, when used for energy and food production can supply up to 6.5 times more population. So reduce the area to 1/6.5, and as Bob pointed out, reduce it further by half, and you will see how tiny speck we would need from the ocean. So why go to the moon?

          • Kyle Field

            There shouldnt be garbage floating in the ocean so we shouldnt just be ok with it being there and blocking light. Let’s clean that up. I do agree that using the ocean for food production (sea farms) would be great and makes a lot of sense to me. As Bob’s map illustrates, we dont even need to leave the land to generate the power we need…let alone the ocean or the moon.

          • Marion Meads

            one way to clean up the garbage is to make use of them, on the spot if possible, like that of the gyre, and we agree our resulting contraption would be tiny area to have a profound effect on the ocean. while localized shading can be a problem, there would be tremendous net benefit.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Perhaps we have to move to regulations that all plastics must be recyclable.

            And if their value as feedstock is not high enough but a deposit on them like many states do on beverage containers. Or build a recycling cost into the cost of the produce.

            At that point it could become cost effective to form companies which would use sorting robots to recycle almost everything.

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