For decades, scientists have been planning to turn the moon into a giant power station. They would place huge arrays of solar panels on its surface to gather sunlight and then distribute the energy to Earth through some technology. It would supply unlimited electricity on the planet, decreasing the demand for coal and fossil fuels. That was only a theoretical concept 50 years ago, but now they’ve found efficient ways to do it. Here’s how they’ll make it possible:
Using the Bright Side of the Moon
Scientists have identified many places on the moon where the sun never sets. They call them the Peaks of Eternal Light (PEL), which are constantly bathed in sunshine unless a rare lunar eclipse occurs. And, that instance happens only briefly.
The PELs are good spots to place solar arrays. If you mount the panels in these areas, there will be no downtime in producing and transmitting electricity back to Earth. The PV cells that’ll be used in the moon will more likely differ from the ones you’re familiar with since they have to be optimized to withstand strong space radiation.
Turning Sunlight into Electricity
You can think of sunshine as the flow of tiny particles called photons, the smallest unit of light. And, as they strike the solar cells with enough power, they disturb the arrangement of electrons in its surface. The continuous movement of atoms creates direct current (DC), which is like the “raw” form of electricity.
When you harness light energy on the planet, you’ll need some SMA or Froniussolar inverters to turn DC to alternating current (AC) before using it. But, when scientists are doing it on the moon, it’s different. Direct current should be converted to microwaves at the transmitting end of the system so you can send electricity back to Earth. Scientists will have to work with powerful magnetic equipment like Klystrons and Magnetrons to make this happen.
Transmitting Power to Earth
You might imagine a strong lightning bolt hitting the ground when you read about sending electricity back to Earth. That’s not it. To understand the whole idea, think of the concept behind wireless charging. As power flows through the conductor in the device, the gadget creates a magnetic field around it. This energy is absorbed by your phone through the copper coils wired into its hardware.
While scientists will be working with equipment that has a similar concept, they have to use a radio wave transmission system instead because it focuses microwaves into a beam. That way, the energy is more directional. It isn’t dispersed in the atmosphere, avoiding interference with Earth’s power and communication systems.
Scientists have a long way to go before they can set up a power hub on the moon, but their path is already clear. Soon, people won’t only use clean energy from an SMA or Fronius solar inverter. But, they can get it from the PV arrays in Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor as well.