When we consider the future of solar energy, perhaps we might imagine solar cells that are much more efficient, or a solar farm in every neighborhood, or integrated solar panels on vehicles and buildings, but chances are, we don't imagine a giant solar array on the surface of the moon and high energy density lasers transmitting the energy down to Earth. Unless you work for the Japanese architectural and engineering firm Shimizu, that is.
A proposal for building an enormous ring of solar panels around the equator of the Moon (up to 250 miles wide), coupled with a network of microwaves and lasers capable of beaming the solar energy to the surface of the Earth, is the latest 'pie in the sky' dream from Shimizu, dubbed the Luna Ring.
According to the company's website, the Luna Ring would be able to generate carbon-free solar power 24 hours a day, and because it wouldn't be affected by weather conditions, as standard solar arrays are on Earth, it would have the potential to supply all of the world's energy needs by 2030 (estimated at 17 billion tonnes of oil equivalent - or TOE).
That's a pretty bold claim, considering the number of technological and financial challenges that would have to be overcome, not to mention the resource constraints that would limit such a project. However, Shimizu proposes that robots could do the work on the surface of the Moon, and that lunar soil could be used to produce some of the materials, including concrete, brick, glass, and cementing materials (although with hydrogen inputs from Earth). They've put together a pretty flashy PDF of the proposal here: Luna Ring
I'm all about considering these types of blue sky projects when it comes to building a renewably-powered future, but I have to admit that I'm quite skeptical that an initiative like this could attract the resources, both financial and technological, to fully build out a solar plant of this size in the next 16 years or so. And that doesn't even include the issue of just how exactly lunar real estate laws would even work.
What do you think? Is this idea better suited to a sci-fi movie, or could lunar solar power be a feasible option at some point in the near future?