In Antarctica, fuel is expensive, since it has to be transported halfway around the world from to the bases countries have set up there. Some research stations already operate wind power. Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Antarctica station is emission-free.
Now EWT, a Dutch wind-turbine maker, and Antarctica New Zealand, the government agency responsible for carrying out New Zealand’s activities in Antarctica, have agreed on the supply and installation of three DW54X 1MW turbines with a hub height of 40 meters on Ross Island.
Two Antarctic research stations, Scott Base and the US-operated McMurdo Station are located on Ross Island and are only a few miles apart. The microgrid that will power both stations will be connected to the wind turbines that will be located about halfway between them at place called Crater Hill. The wind turbines are part of a comprehensive improvement programme that also includes the replacement of three 300-kW turbines, a massive battery energy storage system (BESS), an upgrade to the high-voltage grid, and the replacement of Scott Base’s diesel generators.
The weather on Ross Island is can be extreme. The average annual temperature is -19.5°C. The record low is -58.8°C; the record high is 4.5°C, making Antarctica colder than Alaska.
EWT’s turbines are designed to be able to operate at temperatures as low as minus -40°C. The three new wind turbines are expected to provide Scott Base with 90% of its power needs.
Due to the extremely high wind conditions at Crater Hill, the site is designated as a High Air Density Wind Class IA site. Modernising the island’s energy system will allow Antarctica New Zealand to take advantage of these wind conditions and dramatically increase the share of renewable energy, even as its power needs grow.
Ross Island is accessible only in spring and summer from November to March. For those who need to transport people and goods to and from the island, this presents significant logistical difficulties. The wind turbines will be sailed to Ross Island in February or March and stored in a warehouse near the project site. The first wind turbine will be installed in November or December of 2024, and the other two in January or February of 2026. Special care is required to ensure that wind turbines can withstand the extremes of Antarctic weather.
The wind turbines are part of a comprehensive renovation planned for Scott Base. New facilities will be prefabricated in New Zealand then moved to Ross Island and installed in place of all current facilities. The wind turbines will stand on prefabricated spider-frame foundations, a mixture of a large steel structure and prefabricated concrete blocks, as it will not be possible to pour the concrete on site.
Heiner Kubny, Polarjournal