Idea of a Lunar Power Satellite Has Been Conceptualized
As the European Space Agency’s Solaris initiative commences, focusing on space-based solar power for Earth, they are also exploring the potential of space-based solar to provide energy to the Moon.
Supported by ESA’s innovation program, Swiss startup Astrostrom has developed a concept called the ‘Greater Earth Lunar Power Station.’ This lunar station can be constructed primarily using resources found on the Moon and is designed to transmit microwave power to receivers on the lunar surface, potentially supplying energy for a lunar base.
The design incorporates V-shaped solar panels made from iron pyrite crystals sourced from the Moon. These panels, equipped with integrated antennas, are arranged in a helix configuration spanning over one square kilometer, estimated to generate a continuous 23 MW of energy for various lunar surface operations.
Located at a specific distance of approximately 61,350 km from the lunar surface, the proposed station would serve as a habitation and operational center, acting as a gateway between Earth and Moon activities. It would provide artificial gravity for adaptive health benefits and potentially attract tourists.
This concept could also be adapted for the creation of solar power satellites facing Earth. The challenge of limited launch capacity for gigawatt-scale satellites from Earth’s surface could be overcome by using lunar resources. Launching lunar-made solar power satellites would require significantly less velocity change to reach geostationary Earth orbit compared to satellites launched from Earth.
According to the study, the development of this power station does not necessitate any major technological breakthroughs. Many of the essential technologies for lunar surface mining, beneficiation, and fabrication operations are already in use or in advanced stages of development on Earth.
Furthermore, despite the substantial engineering involved, solar power satellites produced on the Moon would be more cost-effective than their Earth-developed counterparts.
Capturing Electricity From the Air is Being Explored
According to recent research conducted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it is now possible to transform almost any material into a device that can continuously generate electricity from atmospheric humidity.
The key lies in incorporating nanopores, which are extremely small holes with a diameter of less than 100 nm, into the material. These nanopores are smaller than the mean free path of water molecules in the air. When a thin layer of material filled with nanopores smaller than 100 nm is used, water molecules can pass through from the upper part to the lower part. However, due to the small size of the pores, the water molecules collide with the edges of the pores as they move through the layer.
As a result, the upper part of the material becomes bombarded with a higher number of charged water molecules compared to the lower part. This creates a charge imbalance, effectively functioning as a battery that can continuously produce electricity as long as there is humidity in the air.
Jun Yao, the senior author of the study and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMass Amherst, compares this process to a cloud that contains charged droplets and can generate lightning under certain conditions. However, capturing electricity from lightning remains unpredictable. In contrast, the researchers have successfully created a human-engineered system that reliably and continuously produces electricity, allowing for its effective harvest.
Since humidity is constantly present in the environment, this electricity harvester has the potential to operate 24/7, regardless of weather conditions or the time of day. Furthermore, the thinness of the material allows for the stacking of numerous layers, enabling the creation of devices capable of delivering kilowatt-level power.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems in Agricultural
French solar energy developer TSE has introduced the concept of PV canopies for renewable energy installations in agricultural settings to address the need for diversifying renewable energy locations.
In 2022, TSE successfully implemented its first agrivoltaics pilot site spanning 3 hectares in north-central France. The site features a PV shading system with a capacity of 2.4MWp, equivalent to the energy consumption of a community with 1,350 residents. The PV canopies are installed over large-scale crops including soya, wheat, forage rye, winter barley, and rapeseed.
The project was initiated due to production challenges faced by the farm as a result of persistent hot and dry summers experienced over the past decade. By integrating solar panels into the agricultural environment, TSE aims to maximize land use efficiency and contribute to both energy generation and agricultural productivity.
The agrovoltaic canopy consists of a spacious shading structure adorned with solar panels that are fitted with tracker systems. These panels are mounted on cables positioned 5 meters above the fields. A monitoring system regulates the panel orientation based on weather conditions, ensuring automated data acquisition.
The rotating shades of the system effectively alleviate the impact of summer weather conditions by reducing temperatures beneath the shade.
The pilot project serves as a 9-year demonstration, and three similar initiatives are currently under construction, with an additional 12 projects in various stages of development.
The week’s technology radar showcases groundbreaking developments in renewable energy. The concept of a lunar power satellite, capable of transmitting energy from space to the Moon, and the innovative harvesting of electricity from air humidity demonstrate exciting advancements in clean energy technology.