The Moon: A Vast Electric Generator?

Here’s kind of a far out idea that was in the last part of the CBC documentary Fly Me to the Moon.

David R. Criswell (Director of the Institute for Space Systems Operations at the University of Houston), proposes the construction of large-scale solar collectors on the moon’s surface, using local lunar materials. The solar energy would then be converted to microwave energy and transmitted to Earth. Criswell estimates that the entire lunar-solar power generation system could be built over a 10-year period for approximately $50 billion. Imagine that!

17 Replies to “The Moon: A Vast Electric Generator?”

  1. Sounds like a great idea! Will it mean we can take down the wind turbines and give the skies back to the birds?

  2. I could see making the collector mirrors from the silica or other oxides in the moon dirt. The low gravity would be helpful. $50 billion sounds ridiculously cheap to set something like this up. Several people would have to spend quite a bit of time there melting dirt, forming mirrors, and constructing arrays. I would suggest several current parliamentary leaders.

    I’d be concerned about sending the energy back in microwave form; it’d probably have to be a narrow beam of high intensity. You think people complain now about the effect of wind turbines on birds?Imagine some giant fricken microwave “laser”, moving a few degrees off-line and cooking some polar bears or seals.

    Lots of meteor strikes too, on the surface. Not sure how you protect the mirrors.

    Reminds me of the proposed, but rejected, Polish mission to explore the sun (of course, they planned to go at night :).

  3. I wonder if it’s actually feasible. Seems brilliant to me. If it works, that is.

    What would make it feasible, compared to doing the same on Earth?

    Is the intensity of solar energy that much higher on the Moon’s surface, due to lack of atmosphere? Any astronomers/astrophysicists out there with the relative number? The problem on this planet is the low efficiency of the collectors, and the unreliability of the sun (or at least the part of the light hitting the collector).

    To make them bigger in useable area makes them heavier, and more support is needed to keep them upright. In low gravity, perhaps another advantage.

    The meteor strike problem still bugs me.

  4. Might be easier to set up giant mirrors at the L5 position between earth and the moon. Theoretically you can maintain an object there with minimal or no orbit maintenance.

    Whether originating from the moon or L5, the microwaves would have to be relayed through an orbital satellite. Probably to a floating platform in the middle of the ocean to reduce the risk of that target drift Moebius mentioned.

  5. More technocratic wet dreams. The scale is on par with the Branson/Gore $25 million “reward” for somehow sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Any and each technological upgrade translates into a greater entropy flow-through than existed prior to. That is law, as true as not being able to jump off the surface of the planet.

    At these times, head-in-the-sand schemes like this will likely proliferate, as will religious charlatans, hollywood fantasies, alcoholism, etc., etc. The usual depression fare.

    The good times are gone…and they’re not coming back. No amount of debating and hand-wringing over the supposed merits or non-merits of a band-aid budget will alter the path of this bullet. It is difficult to perceive, let alone admit, that the global die-off will make the Black Death, in relative historical terms, look like a nose bleed.

  6. Justa croonin’ and doomin’. 🙂 Seriously though, after yesterday morning’s post (yours) re the Canadian version of the bankster bail-out and related exchanges, then in the evening the blah blah blah amongst your readers about the budget, has to seriously make one scratch one’s head…with a six inch nail! That the nation is being set up for a fall, even the notion of/consideration of, for an eventual IMF “bail out” with all conditions attached, seems to be beyond comprehension. It is much safer to debate budget merits, etc. within the bubble of “what Canadians really want.” It is political finger-painting, take it home, show mom and dad, get a pat on the head.

  7. “Any and each technological upgrade translates into a greater entropy flow-through than existed prior to. That is law”

    truly, a “forest for the trees” moment….

    KEvron

  8. It is much safer to debate budget merits, etc. within the bubble of “what Canadians really want.”

    I’m not entirely certain what you’re saying here. Are you suggesting that the budget should instead be discussed in the context of some nefarious, fiendishly clever macroeconomic scheme?

  9. Yes. But there are hurdles to cross prior to that being an option. They are painful; no one enjoys admitting that life as they have known it is gone forever, forever being a very long time.

    The underlying premise of “wanting” to retain what is becoming a redundant status quo defeats any effort to clearly and responsibly perceive what is actually going on (according to some). The mob rushes to safety and security, always has, always will. The political challenge is to guide/manage the rush, offer soothing optics and strokes, keep a lid on the potential of this energy unleashed.

    One of the first hurdles to cross may be to consider the collusion of two supposed political ideologies. The evidence to do so would seem to be right at hand. The question to keep in mind, IMO, during such political detective work is: “Who controls.” If folks are more comfortable with any run-of-mill cop sitcom guideline: “Follow the money.” If one follows the money, it may just make sense that those who create it, distribute it as debt, and once distributed in turn get it back with interest, may be at the edge of the radar screen.

    The transfer of wealth is theft by any other name. So why do the politicians not hold the thieves to account? Why do they instead funnel a greater transfer of wealth into the very hands that have already stolen?

  10. I have to agree with Debbie Downer for same and other reasons.

    It will definitely cost more than 50 billion and we’d be lucky to get it working in 100 years if at all. The real clincher though is the human side. They are lazy do nothings who care too much themselves to give a crap about a project that might benefit everybody. They’d rather not take part and just get an equal amount back as a tax cut, however temporary.

    Anyone else hear today that we can do whatever we want too combat climate change and it will have no effect until year 3000? Humans rarely plan for tomorrow so I think we can start writing that obituary.

    We are all doomed. Rich people with seaside property more so.

  11. Hmm, well it isn’t actually feasible except for the purposes of charging and refueling satellites and the space station, (for exactly that whole problem with the laser beam from space killing people issue—the moon and earth don’t rotate at exactly the same rate stuff would get burned.) But there are lots of things that could happen here on earth that would work.

    Small things, like just replacing all the old electric wiring in houses and buildings with new stuff, would conserve up to 20% of the electrical power currently used. Old wires leak and they cost money to repair, but no single homeowner wants to pay for that giant bill. Except they kind of do pay every single month with an increased bill.

    I once suggested to someone that the government should just give people grant money to upgrade all their wiring (with receipts for proof, etc..) and then they would not have to build an extra power plant which would save the government $200 mill in construction costs alone, never mind the carbon savings, etc…

    I got shot down. Apparently it was too much like socialism and horrors, homeowners would profit!

    The power plant cost $300 mill by the time the final bill was in….sigh…..and everyone’s home wiring still sucks.

  12. Jay — My, aren’t you in a gloomy mood today?

    Perhaps it would cost more than the ballpark figure cited above. All likely academic, of course.

    What a shame that the money spent on “defense” didn’t go into more adventurous things like this.

  13. Yeah, Cliff, why not satellite mirrors, rather than lunar?

    Cheaper, and they’ve managed to protect the Hubble mirrors (for the most part) from serious damage for quite a while.

    Re: aiming the microwaves correctly, if we can write software for Super Mario Party, we should be able to predicit relative satellite/planet movement with some degree of success. Ocean receivers would give some allowance for error.

    So what if we cook and few lobsters and calamari occasionally.

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