Windmills in Antarctica (2010)
Scott Base, the New Zealand research station on Ross Island in Antarctica was 100% dependent on fossil fuel and diesel generators to satisfy power and heat, until the summer of 2010. To cover this demand, the fuel was bought from the bigger American station, McMurdo, which is next to Scott Base. McMurdo receives fuel deliveries every two years by a big tanker arriving at the station’s little port. Having carried out investigations about wind energy from early 2005 onwards, the decision for three wind turbines on Ross Island was made by Antarctica NZ in April 2008. This joint project with the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) and Antarctica New Zealand is predicted to save almost half a million litres of diesel, reducing the two bases’ fuel consumption by 11%. (Vance and Shaw, 2008; IEE, 2008) Following an environmental evaluation and the permission by the government three turbines were installed in the season 2009/2010. An electrical grid was developed and installed to connect the two bases so that both were connected, resulting in Scott Base and McMurdo benefiting from the renewable energy source. The little wind farm was opened officially on 16 January 2010 and is now producing energy for powering the bases. Further projects are predicted to receive up to 50% of the needed energy from wind are already investigated. (Martaindale, 2006) But a wind farm in Antarctica? The decreasing dependence on fossil fuels and the new renewable green generators are strong arguments for these projects, but is Antarctica the right place to use them? The Protocol on Environmental Protection (Article 3) of the Antarctic Treaty recognises wilderness and aesthetic values as well as the conduct of scientific research.. The wind turbines stand out more than the bases and can be seen from far in the magnificent landscape. They also have to be anchored in the ground, which disturbs the ground. Should there be a wind farm, or are these three turbines already too much? Can these turbines be justified as a need for science? Or is it a necessary step-in becoming more environmentally friendly in Antarctica? (Protocol on Environmental Protection, 1991) These questions will be discussed in the following. Arguments for and against the wind turbines will be explained as well as their suitability for Antarctica. The environmental values and the purposes mentioned within the Antarctic Treaty documents will be regarded and compared with turbines as a renewable energy source. Alternatives are considered and in the end a possible conclusion is drawn, as to answer if and how wind turbines should be used in Antarctica.
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