The plan to power future colonies on the Moon is already under development and will harness energy from the Sun.
NASA and other space agencies’ programs to colonize the Moon have recently been revived, but there is one key factor that still needs to be resolved, how to power such a colony - would it be feasible to obtain uninterrupted solar power without energy storage?
On Earth, supplying 100% of electricity demand 10% of the time, solely with renewables without storage, is inevitable. This thinking has been challenged by a paradigm shift developed by Ben-Gurion University professor Jeffrey Gordon, who published his idea in Renewable Energy.
On the Moon, the only renewable resource available is solar energy, and if we add to this that for a semi-permanent colony to be established on the satellite, it is required to feed the huge factories to produce tons of O2 needed for rocket propellants, not to mention that needed for humans. This is where the idea of a colony becomes complicated because, firstly the Sun is the only energy the Moon has, and secondly, the satellite spends half of its rotation period in darkness.
This is why Gordon has presented a strategy in which uninterrupted electricity would be produced by photovoltaic arrays installed around a 360° latitudinal ring near a lunar pole with transmission lines installed to the O2 plants, for which there would be substantial flexibility in remote locations.
“My solution has a much lower specific mass than all the alternatives that have been presented so far, i.e., a record kg/kW, a key figure for making Moon installations affordable and feasible with launch and installation costs currently above $1 million per kilogram,” Gordon stated.
This new strategy is more than a factor of 100 times that of solar with battery storage and is at least a factor of 6 higher than the solution now being contemplated by NASA of nuclear reactors driving conventional turbines and generators.
Jeffrey Gordon was invited to present these findings at NASA’s Space Solar Power Headquarters last August at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. And as a result, NASA scientists were open to rethinking the plan to power lunar colonies with solar power instead of nuclear power.
The concept takes advantage of the unique combination of the absence of a lunar atmosphere, and the near-zero inclination of the Moon’s polar axis concerning the plane of the ecliptic. In addition to lunar conditions conducive to low-mass transmission lines and a lunar diameter much smaller than that of the Earth.
Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera