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CO2 Emissions The joint U.S.-New Zealand Ross Island Wind Farm in Antarctica.

Published on January 16th, 2010 | by Timothy B. Hurst

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World's Southernmost Wind Farm Now Feeding Antarctic "Grid"

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January 16th, 2010 by
 
The joint U.S.-New Zealand Ross Island Wind Farm in Antarctica.

Joint New Zealand-U.S. project begins harvesting steady Antarctic winds on Ross Island.

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Besides the heavy snow, unrelenting wind, and bone-chilling temperatures, what’s the most difficult part of building a wind farm in Antarctica? The lack of daylight in the winter means construction can only take place in the summer months. And with only one supply ship a year, you better not forget any parts.

On Saturday, the $7.4-million Ross Island Wind Farm in Antarctica began feeding electricity at full power for the very first time. The new wind farm can generate up to one megawatt of electricity and will cut diesel use at New Zealand’s Scott Base and the U.S.’ McMurdo Station by 120,000 gallons and reduce carbon dioxide output by 1,370 tons annually, according to New Zealand’s state-owned Meridian Energy, the project’s developers.

The wind farm’s three 333-kW Enercon E33 turbines will provide roughly 11 percent of the power for the two bases, smoothed by a 500kW PowerStore flywheel system which helps reduce the impact of fluctuating power on the area’s small electric grid. (Watch a live webcam of the Ross Island Wind Farm in Antarctica)

“This turbine makes a very visual statement that renewable energy has arrived on Ross Island,” wrote Meridian’s Scott Bennett on the Ross Island project’s blog, earlier on in the project. “It’s operation, which can be viewed from both Scott Base and McMurdo Station is raising intense interest from the residents in both communities.”

While the turbines have been operating at partial power since December, the units did not begin producing full power until Saturday, when New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully and U.S. Ambassador David Huebner officially flipped the switch via video link with the site from Auckland, in northern New Zealand.

Meridian began the project back in November of 2008 but didn’t finally wrap-up the construction phase of the wind farm until late December 2009.

While the new Ross Island Wind Farm is the largest in Antarctica, it is not the first. A 600-kW, two-turbine wind installment has been providing electricity for Australia’s Mawson Station since 2003.

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Photos courtesy of Meridian Energy

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About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.



  • Jon Jay Howard

    The renewable energy field of technology is booming! We are getting started in the wind energy industry. Our company has created a new type of vertical axis wind turbine that is an innovative method of harnessing wind energy! The SRSWT is a new design that is cost effective, easily maintained, will work in wind/water, and produces fantastic results in a big way! We are seeking a maufacturer to bring our product in to the cutting edge of the renewable energy market. To find out more about what we have to offer, please contact us at the email address listed below. Thank you.

    Jon Jay Howard,

    henergyinnovations@gmail.com

  • Tim Smith

    It’s nice to see this project coming online after watching teams plan for months during my time at McMurdo. Just a few things I figured I should point out about the complexity of this project.

    1) They actually created a power grid between Scott Base and McMurdo where the turbines provide the full power of Scott Base and anything left over goes to McMurdo. In the event that the turbines go down McMurdo can backfill Scott Base over this grid. The trickiest part here is NZ and US power runs at a different frequency that must be changed at each station.

    2) McMurdo had to do some significant profiling and planning to figure out their load and assure proper levels of electricity across the station. You always have to generate more than you use so the station doesn’t brown out, but not too much or you’re wasting fuel. Also McMurdo has to assure heating for the station, much of which comes from the waste heat off the diesel generators so a certain level of diesel generation has to occur.

    3) Supplies are damn near impossible to get. The crane needed to erect the turbines had to be rented for about a year and half for the few months of work erecting turbine shafts.

    4) Due to the inability to pour concrete in Antarctica (lack of perfect rocks drying difficulties) they had to come up with a truly ingenious system where the turbine towers are connected to large concrete blocks buried in the volcanic rock below. This took a bit of engineering and buy off from the manufacturer

  • Tim Smith

    It’s nice to see this project coming online after watching teams plan for months during my time at McMurdo. Just a few things I figured I should point out about the complexity of this project.

    1) They actually created a power grid between Scott Base and McMurdo where the turbines provide the full power of Scott Base and anything left over goes to McMurdo. In the event that the turbines go down McMurdo can backfill Scott Base over this grid. The trickiest part here is NZ and US power runs at a different frequency that must be changed at each station.

    2) McMurdo had to do some significant profiling and planning to figure out their load and assure proper levels of electricity across the station. You always have to generate more than you use so the station doesn’t brown out, but not too much or you’re wasting fuel. Also McMurdo has to assure heating for the station, much of which comes from the waste heat off the diesel generators so a certain level of diesel generation has to occur.

    3) Supplies are damn near impossible to get. The crane needed to erect the turbines had to be rented for about a year and half for the few months of work erecting turbine shafts.

    4) Due to the inability to pour concrete in Antarctica (lack of perfect rocks drying difficulties) they had to come up with a truly ingenious system where the turbine towers are connected to large concrete blocks buried in the volcanic rock below. This took a bit of engineering and buy off from the manufacturer

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com Global Patriot

    Great to see this trend spread to the farthest reaches of the planet. Anywhere there is wind we should be taking advantage of the opportunity, and as new generation technology is developed there will be more opportunities to take this approach.

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com Global Patriot

    Great to see this trend spread to the farthest reaches of the planet. Anywhere there is wind we should be taking advantage of the opportunity, and as new generation technology is developed there will be more opportunities to take this approach.

  • Jon Jay Howard

    There will come a time that lower altitude vertical axis wind turbines will be used more frequently to produce a larger amount of renewable energy. They are able to supply power to multiple electrical generators at ground level. The alternating wind speeds at lower altitudes will be utilized by the use of “wind breaks” to funnel the wind directly at a new type of vertical axis wind turbine design.Introducing my new version of wind turbine technology,The SRSWT.

    Jon J. Howard

    henergyinnovations@gmail.com

  • Uncle B

    This wind power will last as long as the wind blows! Perpetually! Round the clock, no refueling needed, in sustainable fashion, for the humankind using it! Next: Battery driven snow vehicles to clear airport runways, the NiMh batteries from the EV-1 coming out of patent protection by the American shylocks in 2013! and even better Li batteries coming to life as we speak! Give these good folks everlasting LED lights and microwave cooking combined with recent super-insulations that are half as good again as a total vacuum and done with nano-particles and we have real progress! Science and social democracy will win out over the corporatists rational every time! This is a prime example of what can be done once we are unfettered from corporatist agendas and freed to do good in the world! We do not need war. We need wind turbines,solar arrays, and carefully guided Science to resolve the Energy Crisis in America, and the world over. Building Wind turbines, Solar arrays, tidal engines, hydro dams, geothermal power sites, will empower America and the world! Warring for oil and lamenting the end of the “light sweet crude era” only prolongs the misery American people must absorb. Proof: Antarctica reduced oil consumption by a significant factor with Wind and applied Science! Yes Yankee Doodle, outside your blinkered paradign, there is a way!

  • Uncle B

    This wind power will last as long as the wind blows! Perpetually! Round the clock, no refueling needed, in sustainable fashion, for the humankind using it! Next: Battery driven snow vehicles to clear airport runways, the NiMh batteries from the EV-1 coming out of patent protection by the American shylocks in 2013! and even better Li batteries coming to life as we speak! Give these good folks everlasting LED lights and microwave cooking combined with recent super-insulations that are half as good again as a total vacuum and done with nano-particles and we have real progress! Science and social democracy will win out over the corporatists rational every time! This is a prime example of what can be done once we are unfettered from corporatist agendas and freed to do good in the world! We do not need war. We need wind turbines,solar arrays, and carefully guided Science to resolve the Energy Crisis in America, and the world over. Building Wind turbines, Solar arrays, tidal engines, hydro dams, geothermal power sites, will empower America and the world! Warring for oil and lamenting the end of the “light sweet crude era” only prolongs the misery American people must absorb. Proof: Antarctica reduced oil consumption by a significant factor with Wind and applied Science! Yes Yankee Doodle, outside your blinkered paradign, there is a way!

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