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The First Big Renewable Energy project in Antarctica

Posted by Lindy on May 14, 2010

Antarctica New Zealand and Meridian Energy have erected three wind turbines on Crater Hill above Scott Base on Ross Island in the Antarctic, comprising the southernmost wind farm in the world. It could be the forerunner to a number of renewables projects aimed at reducing the frozen continent’s dependence on fossil fuels.

New Zealand is dedicated to the Antarctic Treaty principles of environmental protection and as such is committed to reducing the environmental impacts of its operations. To this end, it has teamed up with Australia’s largest renewable electricity generator, Meridian Energy, to install three 333-kW turbines, which will reduce the amount of diesel required for power generation by around 463,000 litres and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 1,242 tonnes per year. Substituting renewable wind energy for existing fossil fuel use cuts greenhouse gas emissions as well as reducing the risks associated with transporting and storing liquid fuel at Scott Base, they explain. The wind farm forms part of Antarctica New Zealand’s contribution to the joint logistics pool with the United States Antarctic Program.

The wind farm was official opened in January 2010 and now sends power to the electrical grids of both Scott Base and McMurdo Station. The Ross Island wind farm is not the first to be built in the Antarctic. Two wind turbines supply electricity to the Australian Mawson Station, while Argentina’s Esperanza Station is equipped with a turbine used to generate hydrogen.

As materials and equipment can only be shipped in once a year, planning must therefore be meticulous. “Everything had to be well planned down to the last nut and bolt,” said Scott Bennett, project manager of Meridian Energy. Assembly of the 37-metre high turbines also took two years, partly because the only suitable weather window is between November and February.

If the wind farm is successful, others could follow, while the use of solar power is also under consideration, said Bennett. The test phase will last for a year and further developments with the potential to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions at McMurdo Station and Scott Base by up to 50% are under investigation.

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