Cleaner energy

The silhouette of the wind turbine is black against a pink sunset.
Wind turbine at Mawson station(Photo: John Smith)
A slanting rack of solar panels on the roof of a building
Australia's Antarctic stations aim to produce the cleanest power possible, as well as minimise the need for power, and harness forms of power other than fossil fuels.

At Australia's Antarctic stations, diesel generators supply 240V electricity and the excess heat produced by those engines heat water, which is piped around the station to provide most of the station heating needs. The fuel used at the stations is 'Special Antarctic Blend', a light, volatile diesel oil, similar to kerosene, which is stored in steel tanks surrounded by retaining walls which would contain the fuel in the event of a spill. Special handling procedures are used to minimise the risk of fuel spills.

The AAD has now established two wind turbines at Mawson, which can provide up to 90% of the station's energy requirements.

At the height of summer, Antarctica experiences 24 hours of daylight, a valuable source of renewable energy.

The AAD has used solar power for a number of years to power automatic weather stations, VHF repeaters to extend communication coverage, and in some cases, to provide energy for field huts. An innovative project to provide solar powered hot water at Davis during the summer months has also proven to be very successful.

  • Students could discuss how energy is produced in Antarctica to keep the expeditioners warm, cook their meals, run the equipment etc. How could this energy use be reduced? They could list all the types of energy production and suggest the most environmentally friendly ones that would be appropriate for use in Antarctica. See energy management for more information.
  • The students could think of wastes that are very hard to control and impossible to recycle, for example, exhaust emissions from use of petrol and diesel engines.

Read about electricity and heating at Australia's Antarctic stations.

The Australian Antarctic Division has implemented a building, monitoring and control system (BMCS) which has already resulted in greatly decreased power consumption at Antarctic stations.

Issue - Environment protection

Handling waste is difficult and expensive in Antarctica. It is even more expensive to remove it. As there are so few people in Antarctica would it be OK to bury waste in the ice cap where it will never be seen again? Is it OK to burn rubbish there rather than try to store it before bringing it back?

This page was last modified on October 10, 2014.