Japanese firm proposes belt of solar panels around moon

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The Japanese construction and engineering company Shimizu has released a plan to ring the moon’s equator with a 248-mile wide solar panel belt.

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Climate Progress

The Japanese construction and engineering company Shimizu has released a plan to ring the moon’s equator with a 248-mile wide solar panel belt that would, in effect, turn the moon into a minor sun — supplementing solar energy to a planet in need.

As if taken directly from a science-fiction novel, the introduction of the report reads, “a shift from economical use of limited resources to the unlimited use of clean energy is the ultimate dream of all mankind.”

And it is of sci-fi proportions indeed — according to Shimuzu, the belt, which would beam energy back to earth via antennas 12 miles in diameter, could generate the colossal sum of 13,000 terrawatts of energy. The U.S. generated 4,500 terawatts in 2011.

Germany is the world leader in solar power, with 32.3 gigawatts installed as of December 2012. In the U.S. solar power growth is on pace for a record year, with 4,400 megawatts of photovoltaic (PV) and over 900 megawatts of concentrating solar power (CSP) projected to come online this year. Currently five countries have reached the 10-gigawatt milestone for cumulative PV capacity — Germany, Italy, China, Japan, and the US.

lunaring_e_diagramCREDIT: SHIMIZU CORP

Shimuzu proposes building most of the solar belt with robots and using lunar resources as much as possible in construction process. For example, the company says water can be produced by reducing lunar soil with hydrogen imported from earth, and that, “bricks, glass fibers and other structural materials can be produced by solar-heat treatments.” The company proposes to start building the Luna Ring in 2035.

Shimuzu is known for shooting for the moon with projects, and has previously come up with concepts including an environmental island, a pyramid city, and a space hotel. Regarding the solar belt, the company says that, “virtually inexhaustible, nonpolluting solar energy is the ultimate source of green energy,” that could fulfill all of our energy needs.

Not everyone is convinced. Professor Werner Hofer, director of the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy at the University of Liverpool, told The Independent that, “Doing this in space is not a good idea because it is fantastically expensive and you probably never recover the energy you have to invest.”

Beaming power back to earth from space is a complex, expensive, and mostly untested realm. Other challenges to the project include maintenance and upkeep, a hostile space environment that degrades panels faster, and the on-the-ground costs of building the infrastructure required to transmit the energy.

Back on earth, solar energy is soaring in Japan even without harnessing the moon’s infinite resources. Recent projections show Japan’s solar power market growing 350 percent from 2012 to 2013.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Japan is projected to add more solar energy generation than any other country this year. The Japanese government has a target of installing 28 gigawatts of solar by 2020.

In a small step backward for mankind, however, last month Japan announced it was slashing its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reductions target from 25 percent to just 3.8 percent based on 2005 figures. The country’s previous commitment, set in 2009, sought to reduce emissions 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. Officials blamed the lowered target on the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 that caused the country to temporarily abandon all nuclear power. This is also part of the reason why solar power is growing so rapidly in Japan.

 

Source: Climate Progress. Reproduced with permission.

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4 Comments
  1. tsport100 6 years ago

    This story first did the rounds in June 2010 http://bit.ly/1hlHqws

    Fact check: The world record for efficient wireless power transmission is 1 mile. It’s a quantum leap from 1.6 km to 384,400 km… and from an orbit that isn’t geostationary…

  2. Martin 6 years ago

    Yet another facile, throw-away piece by a clueless, uninterested parrot who doesn’t know the difference between Watt and Wh, and couldn’t care less. Should we really be subjected to this type of non-information on RenewEconomy?

  3. Chatteris 6 years ago

    Beam him up!

  4. Ian 6 years ago

    This silly idea does raise some interesting questions. Does any one person, company or country have the right to deface and exploit the moon when it is a gift to all people? Imagine a black band across the full moon at night. Very irreversible, very in-your-face behaviour, also very wrong. The same would go for global assets much closer to home. Green-field developments, arctic mining, holes in the ozone, whaling, deforestation, unbridled carbon dioxide emissions, oil spills. No one minds if you land on the moon and leave a little space junk but to place graffiti right across the moon’s surface that’s another thing. Likewise no one minds if one tree is cut down to make something but to level a whole forest that is criminal. With great power comes great responsibility (Voltaire).

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