Antarctica’s the coldest, driest continent on the planet, and it’s also the windiest. Couple that with the fact that the summer months bring round-the-clock sunshine, and you’ve got an ideal spot for taking advantage of wind and solar power.
Sir Douglas Mawson, namesake for Australia’s Mawson Station, first realised Antarctica’s wind-energy potential in the early 1900s. The Aussies later tested a wind turbine (at right, photo courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Data Centre) when they set up an Antarctic station in 1949.
Wind power now
Today, Mawson Station (pictured at top) generates up to 90 per cent of the energy it needs from two wind turbines (left and right, all three photos courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Data Centre).
Australians based at Davis Station enjoy hot water for “personal ablutions” and more, thanks to a solar-powered hot water heater that’s been up and running successfully for a few years now (left, photo courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Data Centre).
A renewable two-fer
Wind and solar energy come together to provide the juice needed for Remote Area Power Supply units on Macquarie Island (right, photo courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Data Centre).
Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute also uses both solar panels and a wind turbine to power its year-round automated aerosol sampler at Kohnen, where temperatures regularly fall below -70 degrees C (left, photo courtesy of the Alfred Wegener Institute).
Let’s have a cookout
The Australians have even tapped the wind’s power to generate hydrogen fuel for cooking and other uses. So far, it’s helped to bake bread and cook sausages (right and below left, photos courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Data Centre).
Not to be outdone by its neighbour, New Zealand also enjoys the benefits of wind energy at its station on Ross Island (right, photo courtesy of Antarctica New Zealand). In fact, you can even check to see what today’s conditions at the turbines are like via the Ross Island Wind Energy project webcam.