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Japanese firm plans 250-mile wide solar panel on the moon

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It sounds like a tale from a science fiction novel, but a team of Japanese engineers really is hoping to turn the moon into a giant solar panel.

Shimizu, a giant civil engineering and construction firm, plans to install a 'solar belt' around the moon's equator.

To be built almost entirely by remote-controlled robots, the Luna Ring would run around the 6,800 mile lunar equator and be 248 miles in width.

The solar energy collected would converted and beamed back to earth as microwaves and laser, where it would then be converted into electricity and then potentially supplied to the national grid.

Shimizu says the Luna Ring could generate a massive 13,000 terra watts of energy. The Sizewell B nuclear reactor in Suffolk produces 1,198 megawatts (MW).

According to the firm's engineers, the moon's equator is exposed to a steady amount of sun and not subject to some of the weather problems associated with solar energy generation on earth.

“Virtually inexhaustible, non-polluting solar energy is the ultimate source of green energy that brings prosperity to nature as well as our lives,” says Shimizu.

The company plans to have a pilot demonstration by 2020 and for construction to begin by 2035.

This is not the first time solar energy generated in space has been mooted as an answer to the earth's dwindling energy resources. NASA has been investigating space-based solar systems for decades.

And not everyone is convinced - Prof Werner Hofer, director of the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy at the University of Liverpool, said: “Doing this in space is not a good idea because it is fantastically expensive and you probably never recover the energy you have to invest.”

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