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Science and Technology "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan.

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Old November 29 2013, 12:58 PM   #1
Metryq
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Solar panel belt around Moon

This idea sounds plausible, although easier said than done:

Japanese firm plans 250 mile-wide solar panel belt around Moon

The article is not at all detailed, so there is no indication of what sort of design studies have been done. I can think of a few problems:
  • There is an electrostatic "wind" on the Moon caused by the Sun. At dawn, fine particles of the regolith "levitate" off the surface. The same electrostatic action resulted in some dirty astronauts during the Apollo missions. I imagine engineers could work out some sort of electrical repulsion to keep Solar panels clean, but it will be a concern.
  • A 400 kilometer-wide belt around the equator of the Moon is a lot of surface area. I understand that current Solar cells have a "half-life" of years, degrading in effectiveness with age. So aside from the initial installation of this massive collector, panels will need routine replacement. And if this ultra-wide belt has no breaks between panels, the above mentioned dust might need a conveyor system.
  • Focusing the power from the collector back to an Earth receiver has multiple problems. Laser pulses fired at the Moon form a spot 6.5 kilometers wide, yet scientists liken this to shooting a moving dime with a rifle from 3 kilometers away. Pinging a laser reflector on the Moon is nothing compared to beaming terawatts of power down from the Moon in an unending stream. If that beam should drift even a tiny bit from the Moon's libration, quakes on either body, atmospheric effects, etc... (See Asimov's story "Reason" in I, ROBOT.) Japan, of all places, has very little unpopulated land to afford a margin of safety around a receiving station.
  • And there's more to a receiving station than a safety margin for beam collimation and drift. The rotation of the Earth would put any single receiving station out of range for most of the day. So for this massive Solar collector idea to work, Earth would need a web of receivers—all of which would have to be no-fly zones on our busy little planet. If you thought wind turbines and Solar furnaces were bad for birds...
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Old November 30 2013, 10:52 AM   #2
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

It's a good idea. It will be a timely addition when the moon population reaches a billion.
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Old November 30 2013, 11:35 AM   #3
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

YellowSubmarine wrote: View Post
It's a good idea. It will be a timely addition when the moon population reaches a billion.
The missing boy, Haruto, is later found woven into one of the Solar panels, mistakenly picked up by one of the Von Neumann service bots.
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Old December 7 2013, 12:01 AM   #4
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

You might start with a nuclear power plant-powered machine designed to melt regolith into simple reflectors. As the machine moves on, you add more power from the solar plants left behind. You might be able to bootstrap rather quickly.
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Old December 9 2013, 02:07 AM   #5
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

Is it really more practical to transport electricity from the moon than from, say, Saudi Arabia? Because the plan to place solar panels in the Arabian desert strikes me as far more practical.
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Old December 13 2013, 11:57 PM   #6
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

That doesn't help with lunar colony building--and may be a glare hazard to aircraft.
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Old December 14 2013, 08:51 PM   #7
Into Darkness
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

I think we should perform oil exploration on the Moon..... just incase.
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Old December 14 2013, 09:48 PM   #8
Alidar Jarok
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

publiusr wrote: View Post
That doesn't help with lunar colony building--and may be a glare hazard to aircraft.
I thought this was to power Japan, not a lunar colony.

As for glare, that's usually fixed by designated flight routes. Leaving that aside, white sand alone has pretty bad glare, so I'm not sure how dramatically different it would be (I'm also not sure how much the Saudi government would care about glare).
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Old December 23 2013, 07:18 PM   #9
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

Well, you start with the colony and go from there I suppose...
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Old December 24 2013, 02:38 PM   #10
JarodRussell
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

Into Darkness wrote: View Post
I think we should perform oil exploration on the Moon..... just incase.
There's no oil on the Moon.

And the money would be better invested in absolutely oil-free energy and products.
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Old December 24 2013, 05:51 PM   #11
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

Yeah, everyone knows that the oil is on Saturn. I've been receiving investment offers in my email a couple of times in the last decade, and I've invested a grand in all of them. When the companies start the mining operations there, I will be a rich man.
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Old December 24 2013, 08:40 PM   #12
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
Into Darkness wrote: View Post
I think we should perform oil exploration on the Moon..... just incase.
There's no oil on the Moon.
Maybe some dinosaurs used to live there. YOU DON'T KNOW!
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Old December 24 2013, 09:56 PM   #13
Alidar Jarok
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

publiusr wrote: View Post
Well, you start with the colony and go from there I suppose...
What are you talking about? This article isn't promoting a moon colony for the sake of having a moon colony, it was promoted as solving the energy crisis on Earth. The article doesn't even mention the word "colony" once. In fact, it talks about robots and automation, suggesting that people aren't going to live there (and for good reason, it's far, far cheaper to have robots do it, while it's expensive enough to do without having to also bring people up there). Seriously, if you want to have an idea of what people up there would be like for the purposes of generating electricity, think Deep Water Horizon times 1000.
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Old December 24 2013, 11:59 PM   #14
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

Alidar Jarok wrote: View Post
publiusr wrote: View Post
Well, you start with the colony and go from there I suppose...
What are you talking about? This article isn't promoting a moon colony for the sake of having a moon colony, it was promoted as solving the energy crisis on Earth. The article doesn't even mention the word "colony" once. In fact, it talks about robots and automation, suggesting that people aren't going to live there (and for good reason, it's far, far cheaper to have robots do it, while it's expensive enough to do without having to also bring people up there). Seriously, if you want to have an idea of what people up there would be like for the purposes of generating electricity, think Deep Water Horizon times 1000.
No doubt the Japanese will design/create Gundams to construct the belt.
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Old December 28 2013, 10:01 PM   #15
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Re: Solar panel belt around Moon

It would certainly help with a colony. Hey, if folks want to build on the moon, I'm all for it.
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