Jeff Bezos is quietly launching what may be his boldest concept yet: building a massive solar array on the lunar surface. The moonshot idea aims to address the increasing energy demands of our planet amidst global energy instability. The plan is to utilize the simple, proven method of harnessing the power of the Sun to generate electricity.
In doing so, Bezos’ Blue Origin has the potential to transform the way we produce and use energy, on Earth and beyond. Thus, it could help us achieve a more sustainable future. In this blog post, we’ll explore the feasibility of such a lofty endeavor and why it may be one of modern history’s most transformative energy projects.
Why the Moon?
The Moon is an ideal location for solar arrays because it receives consistent sunlight throughout the day. It does not have an atmosphere that can absorb or scatter the incoming light. Additionally, the Moon has no weather events, such as clouds or storms, that could disrupt the energy production process. This makes it an attractive location for setting up solar power infrastructure.
To create solar arrays on the Moon, Blue Origin proposes using Moondust and rock as building materials. Moondust is a fine, powdery substance that covers the lunar surface. This powder just so happens to be composed of various minerals and materials, including silicon, iron, and aluminum. All of these materials are useful in creating solar panels. These elements can be extracted and used to manufacture solar panels that can generate electricity, and help make long-term habitation possible.
One of the key advantages of using lunar regolith, aka Moondust, to create solar arrays is that it eliminates the need to transport these heavy materials from Earth. Transporting large amounts of heavy materials into space is expensive and requires an incredible amount of energy. Using locally-sourced materials reduces the energy, time, and cost required to transport materials to the Moon.
How One Goes About Building a Lunar Solar Array
The actual process of creating solar arrays using Moon dust involves several steps. First, the Moondust must be collected and processed to extract the necessary minerals and materials. No small feat on an extraterrestrial surface, the process requires both excavation equipment and astronauts familiar with proper mining techniques. Once the raw materials are extracted, they can be processed into a usable form and used to create solar panels.
Creating solar panels from Moon dust requires advanced technology, such as 3D printing and other manufacturing capabilities. To maximize their energy production efficiency, solar panels must be engineered and regularly maintained to remain viable. Once the solar panels are created, they can be assembled into solar arrays and deployed across the lunar surface.
Deploying solar arrays on the Moon requires careful planning and execution. Just like in a residential setting, the arrays must be positioned in a location that receives the maximum amount of sunlight and is not obstructed by terrain or other obstacles. The arrays must also be engineered to withstand the strong solar wind plasma constantly bombarding the Moon—a process known as space weathering.
One of the greatest challenges of deploying solar arrays on the Moon is the lack of infrastructure to support their operation. There are no power grids or transmission lines on the Moon. So, the electricity generated by the solar arrays must be stored and transported to the locations where it is needed. It will then become necessary to use batteries or other energy storage systems. These storage systems will need to be transported to the Moon along with many other necessary components. The need for batteries opens the door for fresh partnerships, such as with Teague Egan’s avant-garde company, EnergyX, and their proprietary processes for extracting lithium and creating more energy-efficient battery systems.
“Although our vision is technically ambitious, our technology is real now,” Blue Origin reports on their company’s site. “Blue Origin’s goal of producing solar power using only lunar resources is aligned with NASA’s highest priority Moon-to-Mars infrastructure development objective.” Although Blue Origin isn’t yet working with NASA on the Moon solar array project, they are on others such as the agency’s Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission.
What this Could Mean for Global Energy Security
Despite the challenges, the potential benefits of the lunar-solar project are huge. By generating electricity on the Moon, we can make reducing global reliance on fossil fuels less of a moonshot. The project also may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change by shifting focus to renewables. Additionally, the idea of creating solar arrays using Moon dust and rocks could have applications far beyond space exploration.
While not necessarily a new idea (scientists have been arguing lunar solar array feasibility for years), Blue Origin’s Alchemist Technology has figured out a way to make it happen. With all of Bezos’ clout behind it, the concept truly has the potential to transform the way we produce and use energy. By using lunar regolith to create solar arrays on the Moon, we can generate electricity sustainably and cost-effectively. While many challenges must be overcome, the potential benefits to all of mankind make it an exciting area of research and development for the very near future.
Certainly, one cannot consider the idea without hearing the echo of Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong’s famous quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Being a Billionaire Entrepreneur Helps
Jeff Bezos is the third richest man in the world with a net worth exceeding some $128 billion as of this article of the penning. The billionaire entrepreneur has a track record of investing in innovative and ambitious projects. His personal wealth, combined with the resources of his company, Amazon, and its subsidiaries, such as Blue Origin, can provide the war chest needed to develop and deploy the technology and infrastructure for this rather ambitious project.
Bezos’ interest in space exploration is no secret. He has already invested heavily in developing space technology through Blue Origin. Bezos has a highly-visible public profile and a wide network of connections that could be leveraged to promote the Blue Origin lunar project and attract interest from potential partners and investors. That alone can help to generate the support and momentum needed to complete the project.
Imagine if Bezos’ used his platform to raise awareness on the importance of renewable energy and sustainable practices. If desired, he has the necessary clout to advocate for policies and practices that support clean energy and help to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Where government agencies are hampered by budgets, political infighting, and public opinion, as a private company Blue Origin can blaze its own trail into the frontier of space.
True, the company is beholden to its stakeholders and partners like NASA; however, that freedom may, in fact, be the catalyst required to actually turn a moonshot into reality.
Tyler Reed began his career in the world of finance managing a portfolio of municipal bonds at the Bank of New York Mellon. Four years later, he led the Marketing and Business Development team at a high-profile civil engineering firm. He had a focus on energy development in federal, state, and local pursuits. He picked up an Executive MBA from the University of Florida along the way. Following an entrepreneurial spirit, he founded a content writing agency. There, they service marketing agencies, PR firms, and enterprise accounts on a global scale. A sought-after television personality and featured writer in too many leading publications to list, his penchant for research delivers crisp and intelligent prose his audience continually craves.
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