Solar power belt
"Lunar solar power generation concept" infographic provided by Shimizu Corporation's website.

Shimizu Corporation (TYO:1803), a Japanese construction company, has proposed to tackle Japan’s, and possibly the entire planet’s, energy problems by setting up a giant belt of solar panels around the Moon’s equator.

Tokyo-based Shimizu said its “lunar solar power generation concept” would pave the way for a “virtually inexhaustible, nonpolluting” source of energy, adding that work on the belt could be started as early as 2035 if it receives adequate funding, although the company did not provide details about the cost of such a venture.

Because the lunar equator receives a steady amount of solar energy, Shimizu has proposed that sunlight can be converted into electricity using solar cells at a power-generation facility that would be built at the lunar equator. The electricity can then be transmitted through cables to the lunar side facing the Earth, before they are converted into microwave and laser power for transmission to the Earth, according to details available about the project on the corporation’s website.

“Electric power generated by a belt of solar cells around the lunar equator will be transmitted and beamed to the Earth from the near side of the Moon, or the side that always faces the Earth,” Shimizu said on its website.

Shimizu said its mega-scale solar power belt, which could be as wide as 400 kilometers (248 miles), would eliminate inefficiencies due to bad weather experienced by solar power technology on Earth, and would serve as a continuous source of clean energy round the year.

Japan was forced to shut down its 50 nuclear reactors following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant -- the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. Nuclear reactors had been the source of 30 percent of Japan’s electricity needs, which was poised to rise to at least 40 percent by 2017, prior to the Fukushima disaster.

Shimizu’s proposal has drawn interest as attention has shifted to alternative sources of energy to replace nuclear plants, as the public grows increasingly opposed to the risks involved in reopening the nation’s nuclear energy facilities.

Shimizu has also proposed to exploit lunar resources as much as possible in constructing the solar belt, saying water can be extracted from the lunar surface using hydrogen taken from the Earth. Robots, which will be tele-operated from the Earth, will play a key role in constructing the belt, the company said.