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Going Into The Cold Could The Antarctic Provide Wind Energy For All

Recently a momentous event took place when the official ribbon was cut at Antarctica’s largest wind farm. Located on Ross Island at New Zealand’s Scott Base, the almost 1 MW facility is powered by three 333 kW Enercon wind turbines and will provide up to 11 per cent of the power needed by the base, which will cut down on diesel use by 120,000 gallons and reduce carbon dioxide output by 1,370 tons annually …

The Ross Island Wind Farm was built by New Zealand wind farm developer, Meridian Energy, and cost about $7.4m. Renewable energy produced at the base reduces the need to ship down fossil fuels for use in the generators, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as reducing their carbon footprint. Aside from the three turbines, a 500kW PowerStore flywheel system minimises the impact of fluctuating power on the area’s small electric grid.

The three turbines had been running at partial power since last year, but have been running at full power recently. Guests, including the widow of Sir Edmund Hillary, Lady June Hillary, attended the opening ceremony and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had planned to be in attendance, but was called away.

The world’s southernmost wind farm could be the first in what could be a number of renewable energy projects aimed at lowering the frozen continent’s reliance on diesel for power. The construction of the three-turbine Ross Island wind farm was a huge challenge in an environment where the temperature can fall as low as -57 degrees Celsius. The wind farm will supply about 11 per cent of the power to New Zealand’s Scott Base and the American McMurdo Station, and will cut diesel consumption by about 463,000 litres annually.

“If the wind farm proves a success it could be followed by others, with solar generation also being evaluated for potential use,” said Scott Bennett, project manager at Meridian Energy, the state-owned New Zealand power company which built and runs the turbines. “The philosophy is to get this one up and running, get it operating for a year and it can show us the way forward,” Bennett said.


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