Solar panel belt around Moon

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Metryq, Nov 29, 2013.

  1. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    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...
     
  2. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's a good idea. It will be a timely addition when the moon population reaches a billion.
     
  3. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    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.
     
  4. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  5. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    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.
     
  6. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That doesn't help with lunar colony building--and may be a glare hazard to aircraft.
     
  7. Into Darkness

    Into Darkness Captain Captain

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    I think we should perform oil exploration on the Moon..... just incase.
     
  8. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    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).
     
  9. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well, you start with the colony and go from there I suppose...
     
  10. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There's no oil on the Moon.

    And the money would be better invested in absolutely oil-free energy and products.
     
  11. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  12. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

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    Maybe some dinosaurs used to live there. YOU DON'T KNOW!
     
  13. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    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.
     
  14. Noname Given

    Noname Given Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No doubt the Japanese will design/create Gundams to construct the belt. ;)
     
  15. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    I think you've certainly made it crystal clear that you're for it (considering that you're the only one advocating for it). To me, colonization of Mars is a little more promising. Something about the presence of an atmosphere that appeals to me more. ;)
     
  17. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Hey, I'll take either one. Right now, people view space as just a place for weather communications or military satellites. We have got to get beyond that market limited model if we are to ever get off this planet in a big way.
     

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