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wind power to supply the arctic base

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  • wind power to supply the arctic base

    Its my understanding that oil is brought in from the planes, and that this is used to supply the base with electricity and heat. Why not harness the strong winds to help power the base?

  • #2
    Hi Jonathan,

    You've made a very good point. As the windiest place on earth, Antarctica should be the most obvious place to use wind power, a few details:

    It's so windy in Antarctica that wind generators can be damaged by the very strength of the wind they're trying to harvest.

    Antarctic bases don't use that much power. Like anywhere else in the world, storing the power at times of plenty for the times of no wind poses a problem. There's no "grid" of any kind for the excess power to be passed on to.

    Fuel is always brought in by ship or overland wherever possible as this is the cheapest option and economics will always prevail, so while not ideal, the current system is not as wasteful as it may seem.

    The Australian's are ahead of the rest in using wind power for Antarctic bases, but then, they do have a base in the windiest place on earth - Mawson station http://www.aad.gov.au/default.asp?casid=763

    Wind power in Antarctic goes right back to the "Heroic Age", Roald Amundsen amongst others had a windmill onboard his ship, the Fram to generate electricity when he made his historic South Pole journey in 1911. The windmill was damaged at one point by excessive winds however.

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    • #3
      I can corroborate the fact that winds can be strong enough to destroy equipment.

      Back in 72/73 BAS installed a small wind generator on South Georgia for a two-man glaciologist's hut (up on Mount Hodges I believe it was). Its designers had said it was tested up to wind speeds of 100mph. It was destroyed just a few months after installation when the winds at the base (at sea level) were gusting to 80 knots.

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      • #4
        Hi I belive a wind generator was fitted at Halley in 95. I am not sure how it got on. Wind power would be an option but at Halley the largest electrical load is when it is cold and calm. It can get down to -50.C. When it is windy it is usualy mild and thus the electrical load is low. I was generator mechanic at Rothera and Tractor Mec. at Halley so this is from personal experiance. Small solar pannells are used on remote weather stations and to charge the batteries of the radios used in the field.

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        • #5
          Re: wind power to supply the arctic base

          I imagine most of the fuel taken to antarctica is for heating. Now there are other ways of storing energy from wind power, but using the electricity to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen may make the most sense for antarctica. Getting tanks to antarctica for store the hydrogen would be the largest hurdle, another form of storage would be underground injection.

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          • #6
            Re: wind power to supply the arctic base

            This seems to be working well:

            http://www.aad.gov.au/apps/operations/electrical.asp

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            • #7
              Re: wind power to supply the arctic base

              The BAS base at King Edward Point, South Georgia has a wind generator linked up to a bank of batteries. When I was there in 2002-3 it spent most of its time out of action, I think because of cracks in the structure. When it worked it was quite effective but put out a lot of heat as dumped energy when the wind was strong (as it very often was!). However, it only supplied enough electricity to power one building.

              Interestingly, the old whaling station across the bay at Grytviken got its electricity supply from hydroelectric power from a dammed lake (Gull Lake) - and this was 100-odd years ago! I believe that the South Georgia Government may be considering putting in a modern hydroelectric scheme which would power the entire BAS base and government officer's house etc, cutting down the need for fuel to be shipped in.

              Sue

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              • #8
                Re: wind power to supply the arctic base

                I have a few different ideas on storing the wind energy.


                first theres the tried and true method of hydrolysis. Cyrogenic high pressure tanks can store enormous volumes.


                Another idea is to use the electricity to grow algea, which would then be fed to bacteria. The decay of the algee would produce methane, which could be stored and burned when needed.

                A third possibility is using the energy to melt ice into warm water and storing it in insulated tanks. When energy is needed during the calm cold weather, the liquid water is poured into pistons and allowed to turn into ice. The expansion of the size would provide the kinetic energy for heating the base.

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                • #9
                  Re: wind power to supply the arctic base

                  Some good comments here. There is interest in alternative power in Antarctica, but there have been some obstacles.

                  First, I'll note that at the two US stations I have been to, pretty much everything is powered with oil - in particular a fuel called AN8. At McMurdo, one tanker comes in every year and refills storage tanks there. At the South Pole, pretty much all the fuel is flown in on LC-130s, and a substantial number of flights are required just to bring in fuel. The United States Antarctic Program has been experimenting with taking fuel to the South Pole overland (the South Pole Traverse, as it is known), but they have run in to a number of problems. They're getting better at it, though.

                  Another problem is that although there are many talented, intelligent people working in Antarctica, those who are there year after year and who might push some changes through are, unfortunately, not able to be in two places at once, and so they tend to miss out on the latest innovations in alternative energy and other technologies, because the people developing these technologies are -oddly enough - generally not Antarctic residents. Finally, once materials have been found and bought, it can take up to two years for those materials to finally make it to the South Pole. This past season at the South Pole the Pringle's potato chips for sale in the store advertised a contest - entries to be mailed in by no later than December 2005. (It's a good thing food doesn't go bad in Antarctica!)

                  The end result of all this is that by the time you get as far south as the Pole, the technology tends to be about ten years behind the times. Not for everything, of course. Small items like computers can be shipped all the way by air and are pretty up-to-date, for example, and some of the science is cutting edge. But for run-of-the-mill equipment, especially if its heavy, don't expect the latest model.

                  Certainly much could be done in the way of alternative energy in Antarctica. If they really wanted to do it, McMurdo Station could probably dispense with most fuel entirely. With Mt. Erebus so close, I'm sure that some of the newer methods of geothermal power would work - year round.

                  As others have noted, the strong but inconstant winds along the coast are not necessarily useful and may cause equipment trouble. On the other hand, strong, constant winds might work but would require specially made equipment which could be quite expensive. If fuel can be brought in by ship, it would be the cheapest and most reliable source of energy for a small station. I don't know why wind power has not been harvested at the South Pole yet, as the wind there is pretty constant but not excessively windy. I think the highest wind recorded at Pole was about 25 knots (I might have misremembered - maybe it was 50 - but it wasn't hurricane force), and generally the wind is between 5 and 15 knots. A few days during the summer the wind died down to almost nothing, but that is pretty rare. There would still have to be other sources of power for windless days, but wind seems like a good idea at the Pole. So does solar, especially with some of the latest developments in solar. Solar power would be useless during the winter, but the highest load is during the summer when the population is up to around 250, so it could be useful to supplement other sources of energy.


                  Alan Light

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