Let's Cover The Moon in Solar Panels

Illustration for article titled Lets Cover The Moon in Solar Panels

Here's an idea so crazy it might work: a solar plant on the Moon. Specifically, a 6,800 mile long solar belt that spans the Moon's equator and sends energy back to Earth with lasers and microwave power.

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Japanese firm Shimizu is calling their lunar solar power generation concept the Luna Ring and it's brilliantly ambitious. The way the Luna Ring works is by gathering solar energy with a 6,800 mile long solar belt across the Moon's equator that'll be transmitted to Moon-based energy conversion facilities. The converted power will then be beamed to Earth-based facilities with laser power and microwave power. Once on Earth, we'll be able turn all that power into electric power for our power grids or hydrogen fuel.

Robots will handle the lunar-side construction with most building materials coming from the moon. The benefit of having solar panels on the Moon is that it eliminates inefficiency due to bad weather and allows it to achieve 24/7 continuous power generation. Oh, and the fact that we'll have a freaking power plant on the Moon sending lasers at the Earth isn't anything to sneeze at either.

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If this Luna Ring ever gets built it'll join a growing number of robot Moon bases in the works. Which will obviously lead to Robot Revolution with all the robots banding together and hijacking the Moon—stealing all our power in the process. [Shimizu via Inhabitat]

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DISCUSSION

Hooniganitis
Hooniganitis

How much power could it generate and how financially feasible is the idea? Probably been done before but so what, it got me thinking.Ok, so this is a quick mock up and not necessarily accurate in any way shape or form (I used wikipedia) but here goes anyhoo:

As a reference: Annual Production of USA=~3992 billion kWh (25% of Earth Generation/Consumption)

Average Cost: 12-25 Cents/kWh

The Moon

Circumference: 10921 KM -(i)

Width of Solar Panel Belt: 1 KM -(ii) (for simpler calculations later)

Area of Solar Energy Impact: 30% -(iii) (Prob not the technical term but I am guesstimating that at any given time, about 30% worth of the surface of the moon is the power source. Some parts get less light due angles and some get full impact. I have guestimated it to be 30% but feel free to suggest a more suitable value)

Total Panel Area: 10,921,000,000 Square Metres -(iv) (i * ii)

Total Power Generating Area(30% of Total Area): 3,276,300,000 Square Metres -(v) (iv * iii)

PANELS

Solar Power: About 1366 W/m2 -(vi) (Approximately)

Efficiency: 11% -(vii) (Typical Efficiency of Commercial Panels albeit there are higher efficiencies available)

Power per Square metre: 150.26 Watts -(viii) (vi * vii)

Cost (per Metre Squared): US$300 -(ix)

Weight: 12 Kg -(x)

POWER OUTPUT

Total Power Generation: 492.3 Tera Watts -(xi) (v * viii)

Output per Annum(in kWh): 4312.52 Billion kWh -(xii) (xi * 24 * 365)

TRANSMISSION

Efficiency: 50% -(xiii)

End Users Receive(Billable): 2156.26 Billion kWh-(xiv)

COSTS

Cost of Panel(per sq m): US$300 -(xv)

Launch Cost: US$ 20,000 per Kg -(xvi) (Am assuming to the moon and not just Orbital. Big assumption, I know.)

Total Launch Cost for All Panels: US$2621.04 Trillion (!??) -(xvii)

Assume the install cost is included. (Why not? If I am paying 2621 Trillion Dollars....) -(xviii)

Maintenance: see xviii -(xix)

Assuming Life Span: 10 Years -(xx)

Cost Per Annum: US$ 262.43 Trillion -(xxi) (xvii/xx)

COST PER kWh: US$ 121.71 -(xxii) (xxi/xiv)

Inferences

If Solar Efficiency is Boosted to 30% (currently its up to about 20%) and Launch Cost is reduced by Half to 10,000 per KG (Indian Space Research Organisation aims to hit this target within 2 years), Cost Per kWh becomes 22.34 which is still way more than existing supplies.

It only becomes palatable (imho) if Life Span of Project is 20 Years,Panel Efficiency touches 50%, and launch cost comes under US$2500 per Kg. This results in a cost of US$1.69 per kWh. Though we havent achieved these price points yet, it is concievable that it can be done within a few decades. Just my two bits.

PS: I have an excel file with the above if anyone wants it