Photovoltaic Energy at South Pole Station
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
The provision of energy is one of the most important issues currently confronting the global community as conventional fuel reserves are depleted; together with increased demand from developing countries and the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels. Consequently finding alternative energy sources and using conventional sources more efficiently are a clear priority for the worldwide community. In Antarctica, the scientific bases are dependant upon imported fuel oil to maintain operations and to provide a safe working environment. The primary uses of the fuel oil is electricity generation, heating and transport ( both ground and air operations ). The cost of importing this fuel into Antarctica is high and so are the risks involved in its supply and distribution. Perhaps the greatest environmental threat to Antarctica from the operation of these bases is from oil pollution. The inaccessibility of Antarctica makes the cost of delivering fuel oil high, especially where bases are not accessible by sea. Consequently it would be highly desirable to reduce the dependence of Antarctic bases on fuel oil. Sustainable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, provide an opportunity to provide alternative energy sources for Antarctica. Although the environment offers significant engineering challenges for the implementation of such systems, the high cost of present generation methods could make the implementation of renewable energy schemes attractive from an economic, as well as environmental, perspective. Although solar energy is obviously limited in its application in Antarctica due to the months of darkness, it does offer advantages as a supplementary power source at permanent bases. Clearly base activity increases during the summer months and this leads to an increased demand for power. If solar energy could fulfill some of this demand then significant improvements in efficiency could be achieved. Although solar energy can be harnessed in various ways, for example in heating, water production and electrical generation, this report covers the application of photovoltaic1 systems to generate electrical power in Antarctica. South Pole Station provides a promising opportunity for the implementation of solar energy since it is at the end of a complicated and expensive logistics chain for the supply of fuel oil. The demands on the current system of logistical supply for fuel and generation capacity are creating pressures on the existing infrastructure which favour the provision of a supplementary power source.