- Number 319 |
- August 30, 2010
Baring-Gould helps keep lights on down South
While most of us are squeezing the last bit of sunshine out of summer, clean energy systems certified by DOE''s National Renewable Energy Laboratory are supplying ice-bound research bases with critical power during the frigid darkness of the Antarctic winter.
Later this year, other systems being tested by the NREL team are expected to generate power during the cold, but endlessly bright polar summer.
The combined results will establish renewable energy and energy-efficient construction standards in Antarctica and other extreme locations.
The projects also will demonstrate the reliability of renewable energy systems in the world's toughest conditions.
"The conditions in Antarctica leave no margin for error," said NREL senior mechanical engineer Ian Baring-Gould who leads the Laboratory's polar team. "If wind and solar energy systems can work in Antarctica, certainly they should work in places like Kansas."
The most extensive use of renewable energy in Antarctica is at McMurdo Station, the primary hub for U.S. science operations on the continent. The station's population swells to more than 1,000 residents during the polar summer.
McMurdo shares a new 1 megawatt wind farm with nearby Scott Base, which is operated by New Zealand. It is the southernmost wind farm in the world.
Baring-Gould and NREL's Owen Roberts commissioned three Enercon E33 turbines in January.
The system includes a flywheel that can supply power for 30 seconds to maintain the system's stability in case of sudden wind changes while improving overall power quality.
It supplies a utility grid of ground-laid cables that had to be installed between the bases and the wind farm. The system uses a static frequency converter because power at McMurdo operates at 60Hz while the New Zealand base operates at 50Hz.
The wind farm is expected to meet at least 20 percent of the electricity needs of both bases and cut diesel fuel consumption by at least 125,000 gallons per year. It will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 1,242 tons per year as well.
"During a high-wind event, the power system demonstrated that more than 70 percent of McMurdo's energy needs could be provided by wind with the existing system configuration," Baring-Gould said. "But we need to make sure that the system works with diesel generation so there is no interruption of power or instability."
The NREL team also is testing renewable energy technologies at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
Rather than add photovoltaic panels to the new $153 million station, NREL is focusing on property a few hundred yards away nicknamed Summer Camp. Rows of Quonset huts shelter the overflow of researchers and maintenance workers. Because the sun never sets during the polar summer, PV could generate power around the clock for the small huts, as well as nearby toilets, laundries and other facilities.
The NREL team is conducting field tests with small installations — six PV modules and a small 2.3 kW wind turbine.
"It looks promising because the two renewable resources — solar and wind — coincide with the change of seasons," Baring-Gould said. "The wind blows during the dark winter. And when the power demand is high during the summer, you'd have solar panels working 24-7."
Submitted by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory