Science

Shimizu's Luna Ring to beam solar energy from the Moon

Shimizu's Luna Ring proposes an an array of solar cells around the moon's equator to harvest solar energy and beam it back to Earth (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
Shimizu's Luna Ring proposes an an array of solar cells around the moon's equator to harvest solar energy and beam it back to Earth (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
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Shimizu's Luna Ring proposes an an array of solar cells around the moon's equator to harvest solar energy and beam it back to Earth (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
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Shimizu's Luna Ring proposes an an array of solar cells around the moon's equator to harvest solar energy and beam it back to Earth (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
An overview of how the technology might work (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
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An overview of how the technology might work (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
An explanation of the energy conversion process (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
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An explanation of the energy conversion process (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
An image of offshore facilities that could collect power (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
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An image of offshore facilities that could collect power (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
The power transmission process explained (Image: Shimizu Corporation)
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The power transmission process explained (Image: Shimizu Corporation)

A Japanese firm has come up with the idea of constructing an array of solar cells around the Moon's equator to harvest solar energy and beam it back to Earth. The Shimizu Corporation proposes creating a "Luna Ring" using materials derived from lunar soil along its 11,000-km (6,800-mile) equator. The plan involves starting with an array that's a few kilometers wide and eventually increasing that to around 400 km (250 miles).

The goal is to generate a continuous stream of power from the Moon's lunar equator, which receives a steady amount of exposure to the Sun, and beam it down to Earth from the near side of the Moon. It's an ambitious idea that calls for assembling machinery transported from Earth and using tele-operated robots to do the actual construction on the Moon's surface, once it arrives.

The multi-phase project, to be spread out over a period of 30 years, envisions creating construction materials using a combination of strategies. Water, the firm claims, could be produced by reducing lunar soil with hydrogen imported from Earth. The company also proposes making lunar concrete by extracting cementing material, and utilizing solar-heat treatment processes to create bricks, ceramics, and glass fibers.

The concept also calls for remotely-controlled robots to undertake tasks such as excavating the surroundings, leveling the ground and laying out solar panel-studded concrete. Embedded cables could transfer the collected solar energy and send it to transmission stations that are located on the near side of the Moon.

Power could be beamed to the Earth through microwave power transmission antennas, about 20 m (65 ft) in diameter, and high density lasers, both guided by radio beacons. Microwave power receiving rectennas on Earth, located offshore or in areas with little cloud cover, could convert the received microwave power into DC electricity.

The company claims that its system could beam up to 13,000 terawatts of power around-the-clock. The proposed timeline has actual construction beginning as soon as 2035.

Source: Shimizu Corporation

Update (Dec 3, 2013): This article originally stated that the project would "generate a continuous stream of power from the side of the Moon that's always facing the Sun, and beam it down to Earth from the side that's in shadow." Our apologies for this error, and our thanks to Gizmag reader David Evans for pointing it out. The error has now been corrected to reflect the fact that there is no such place. Ed.

34 comments
notarichman
orbit some mirrors around the moon as well? but heavens! a terrorist could fry the earth!
Matthew Bailey
I love 30 year projects... we can't sustain anything that transcends one administration. Perhaps Japan is better at this, but imagine going to the bank and asking for a 100 year loan for a trillion dollars.
zevulon
in 2 weeks china will land a rover on the moon and begin transmitting images. maybe video. china wins. japan loses.
Joris van den Heuvel
Here's an idea: why not put solar panels on the face of the earth? Let the sun do the beaming (remember sunlight is wireless), plus it saves us the trouble of transporting millions of tons of manufacturing equipment to the moon, and the billions of tons of fuel to get it there!
David Evans
"the side of the Moon that's always facing the Sun," There is no such place. A solar cell on the Moon's equator will be in shadow half the time. There are plenty of good locations for solar power here on Earth.
piperTom
Of course it's not hyperbole to say the costs will be astronomical. Investors must be really sure nobody will make a fusion generator or other big breakthrough on earth for at least 50 years. Legal questions: (1) why is that huge area of Luna your property? (2) Congratulations: you have just built a 13 petabyte weapon. Did you really think Russia, China, the U.S., and others would just still still for that?
Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
Imagine losing control over one of these beams of death. Very ambitious plan to say the least.
SamB
So this is the answer to the question "How do I power my giant Gundam when I shut down all of my nuclear reactors?" The Japanese are so cool!!!
kwarks
This is a highly economical solution if they made a Hollywood movie out of it that grosses $10T. What's wrong with a terrestrial energy mix and better insulation?
nutcase
The luna ring gets a big LUNA TICK from me!