Power Bites: Plug into the Moon!

As demands around the world for electricity increase, will we find ourselves repeatedly in the dark?

David Criswell, director of the Institute for Space Systems Operation at the University of Houston, has a bright idea to solve world energy woes. The scientist believes that the solution lies within our nearest celestial neighbor—the moon.

The Criswell plan is to transform luna into a kind of giant orbiting wall plug. He advocates building solar power stations on the lunar surface as a way to provide sustainable and affordable electric power back here on Earth.

First of all, the airless moon is already on the receiving end of huge amounts of solar power in the form of sunlight. Harnessing just one percent of that sunlight could satisfy Earth's power needs, Criswell suggests. But how?

there is a picture of the Lunar Solar Power system.

Photography Credit: Moon: NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA-GRC)

The concept is called the Lunar Solar Power (LSP) system. Huge “farms” of solar cells would collect sunlight that shines on the moon. Pairs of solar farms would be planted in the lunar highlands, on the east and west limbs of the moon, near the equator. That sunlight would be converted to microwave energy and beamed across space to an energy-needy Earth. Once here on terra firma, the microwave energy would be transformed into electricity and fed into local energy grids.

Most of the LSP hardware could be made on the spot, Criswell says. Some high-technology items would be ferried to the moon from Earth. Thanks to the Apollo program, moonwalking astronauts were the first prospectors in another world. Hundreds of pounds of lunar samples have been studied, showing great promise for manufacturing purposes.

Lunar dust can be used directly as thermal, electrical, and radiation shields. Also, lunar surface materials can be converted into glass, fiberglass, and ceramics, not to mention solar cells, electric wiring, microcircuitry, and other items.

“Solar cell technology here on Earth is done in vacuum or near-vacuum conditions. And those conditions are certainly available on the moon, at almost no cost,” Criswell says. By the mid-21st century, enough lunar solar power could be imported from the moon to supply the world's then-population of 10 billion people. That power would meet all basic human needs, Criswell predicts.

Activity

  1. How does David Criswell plan to get energy from the Moon?
  2. What are some of the benefits of getting energy from the Moon?
    Write a few sentences explaining your answer.