Supermoons, the biggest and brightest moons of the year, occur about three or four times annually. In 2020, we are expecting four supermoons. So far, we have seen three supermoons since March.
While ordinary people are into supermoons for viewing purposes alone, researchers have looked beyond what the naked eye could see. They have beeninvestigating the possibility of generating electricity from asupermoon.
This became a hot topic in 2013 when a California solar plant said that some of their energy was produced from lunar energy. As a result, many have asked: what is lunar energy, and how does it generate electricity?
What is Lunar Energy
For many years, moon energy or lunar energy has been defined as the energy that we harness from the tides (1).
Thisis the condition wherein the gravitational attraction of the moon intermingles with the gravity and rotation of Earth. This results in the rise and fall of tides along coastlines and near the mouths of rivers. There is kinetic energy in the moving water. This energy can be seized and converted into something useable as the water freely courses through rotary engines or turbines.
Underwater or tidal turbines look like those massive dikes or wind generators. They are essentially windmills that are set up onto a river bed or seabed. The submerged current produced by the tides movesthe blades like an aircraft propeller. These rotary engines are attached to a gear case that is linked to an electric generator. This then produces the electricity that is carried by cables. The electricity can be disseminated once it’s connected to an electrical grid (2). Many researchers have considered moon-driven tides an uninterrupted supply of renewable energy.
Thus, the concept of lunar energy isn’t entirely new. There are lots of tidal power plants set up like the hydroelectric dams that have been in existence for many years. These plants trap water throughout a high tide. In cases of low water, they then expel the water through tidal turbines (3). Energy Quest, an Australian-based energy advisory firm, said that one tidal plant that started operations in 1966 still supplies energy to thousands of consumers in France.
However, modern developments in technology have brought about a whole new meaning to the term “lunar energy.”Recent research reveals that it is now possible to create photovoltaic cells that will be placed on the moon and transmit enormous amounts of energy to Earth.
Why Lunar Energy Works
Lunar energy works because of construction materials that can be found in the moon. In the 1970s, during “Project Apollo,” Dr. David Criswell from the University of Houston found that all the materials required in making up photovoltaic cells were present in the moon’s dust and rocks.
In a 2002 study entitled “Getting Power From The Moon,” Dr. Criswell proposed that the earth can acquire all of the electrical energy it requires by using photovoltaic cells on the moon. He suggested the use of a Lunar Solar Power (LSP) System, in which arrays of photovoltaic cells on the moon surface will be used to radiate energy back to our planet.
He figured that in 2050, when the earth’s population will haveballooned to 10 billion, people will need 20 Terawatts (TW) of electrical energy. Note that the moon already acquires 13,000 TW of energy from the sun.
harnessing just 1% of the solar power and directing it toward Earth could replace fossil fuel power plants on Earth. (4)Dr. Criswell
How Much Lunar Energy in Supermoons
If the moon is closer to the earth, will there be more lunar energy? The answer is no.
In one of 2013’s supermoons, First Solar’s Antelope Valley Solar Ranch recorded that they produced 1MW of energy from the moon’s light. It’s important to note that 1MW of power does not really have a huge effect on the distributionof energy. However, through several innovations, more energy can be harvested in the future.
Such is the case of Sunrun. According to their own reports, they have developed what they call the “first lunar energy panels in the world.” With patented LunarLight technology, Sunrun claims that houses will be able to acquire tons of moon energy and convert it into renewable power. We can only hope for more technological advances like this in the future.
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