Could Japan's Plan For A Solar Power Plant On The Moon Work?
If a Japanese project moves forward unobstructed, the world will have solved all of its energy woes. Additionally, the Japanese architectural and engineering firm behind the project, Shimizu, would have also solved the climate crisis.
The plan is simple in design. It envisages putting 400-kilometer-wide solar panels around the moon's 11,000-kilometer equator. The gigantic panel will beam energy back to Earth where it will be converted into electricity at ground stations. Shimuzu is reputed for venturing into far-fetched sci-fi-like "dream projects," some of which include pyramid cities and space hotels. "Machines and equipment from the Earth will be assembled in space and landed on the lunar surface for installation," claims the proposal.
Like Us on Facebook
The idea is not entirely crazy. Project Solaren is similar, and is nearly close to launch. The project, which has ended funding efforts, expected to raise more that $100 million to fund their project, aimed at developing solar farm in space. The project would nevertheless require billions of dollars, with each rocket alone costing $150 million. The idea was proposed by the Manhattan, Calif.-based Solaren Corp. in 2009, according to Dutra's The Paper.
The photovoltaic farm in space is expected to use a kilometer-wide inflatable Mylar mirror that would focus the sun's rays on a smaller mirror; this in turn, would reflect the sunlight onto high-efficiency solar panels. The electricity generated by these panels would be converted into radio frequency waves transmitted to a giant ground station near Fresno, Calif. where they would be converted back into electricity.
The advantage of space-based solar panels is that they can produce energy around the clock, unlike terrestrial solar power plants, which wouldn't even be able to handle the minimum amount of demand unless backed by conventional energy. The real problem appears to be the cost of lifting the solar panels into orbit.
The Solaren project generated lot of interest when it was announced in 2009. There is little information on the current progress of the project except for a brief statement recently released from the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Peevey, who said that the project was currently under active development.
"Although this sounds like science fiction, I am hopeful that recent advances in thinner, lighter-weight solar modules will make this technology feasible," Peevey said, according to Quartz.
There are several challenges that Shimizu or Solaren must encounter and hash-out successfully, before their projects come anywhere close to reality. The first and the greatest challenge is the cost. Most innovative ideas regarding unconventional energy production have either died or struggled with the issue of cost. The huge cost of space transportation will make per unit energy cost extremely expensive for commercial application. In addition, outer space law is notoriously complicated for practical application. The question is: How is Shimizu going to stake claim on all that lunar estate?
© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.