One of Japan’s leading engineering firms has unveiled radical plans to transform a huge swathe of the moon’s surface into an offworld solar plant.
Though the proposal sounds more like something lifted straight from the pages of a work of speculative science fiction than a real-world renewable energy scheme, engineers from the Tokyo-headquartered Shimizu Corporation believe they have devised a viable means of generating power for usage and consumption on Earth.
Their plan involves the construction of a "Luna Ring" of solar panels in a belt that girds the surface of the moon on a plane perpendicular to its axis. The vast scale of the Luna Ring would make it one of the most ambitious engineering feats ever undertaken by humanity; as currently envisaged by Shimizu, the facility would be nearly 20 kilometres wide and approximately 11,000 kilometres long.
While the sheer dimensions of the Luna Ring mean it will generate a huge amount of power, the question nonetheless remains as to how this cornucopia of off-planet energy can be conveyed to the denizens of Earth in the absence of corporeal transmission structures.
The solution concocted by Shimizu's engineers is to beam the solar energy generated by the Luna Ring directly to the Earth in the form of microwaves and lasers, where it can then be captured by receiving stations dispersed around the planet. According to the company, this method could potentially stream a staggering 13,000 terawatts of continuous energy to Earth-bound reception facilities.
Another potential spanner in the works for the plan is the current absence of regular manned missions to the moon - the last time human beings set the soles of their boots on the lunar surface was over four decades ago, way back in 1972, and NASA has shelved plans for a return visit anytime soon.
The solution proposed by Shimizu's engineers would appear strikingly characteristic of modern Japan's penchant for hi-tech solutions - they plan to send a cohort of robots to the moon to do all the heavy lifting, with human beings only involved in a remote, supervisory capacity here on earth.
Shimizu's scheme is part of broader efforts by Japan's domestic energy sector to shift to safer and cleaner forms of power in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, the aftermath of which continues to plague the eastern coast of Honshu with environmental problems.
The company believes its proposal could be nothing short of a panacea for all of humanity's energy needs, and not just those of resource-scarce Japan.
"Shimizu Corporation proposes the Luna Ring for the infinite coexistence of mankind and the Earth," said the company in an official statement. "Virtually inexhaustible, non-polluting solar energy is the ultimate source of green energy...the Luna Ring translates this dream into reality through ingenious ideas coupled with advanced space technologies."