Australia has three research stations running in the cold landscape of Antarctica. And keeping them powered is no easy task. But is solar the solution? Earlier this year, the first solar farm in Antarctica went into operation to power around 10% of Casey Station’s electricity demand each year.
Nestled on the picturesque coast of Antarctica, 3,400 km away from Hobart, Casey Station is a busy place. Playing a big role in the research of geology, marine biology and climate change, the station uses a lot of electricity. Historically, shipments of diesel fuel have helped keep generators turning, but now it’s using greener alternatives like wind and solar.
Sideways Solar Panels
To maximise the time that solar panels spend in sunlight, solar installers – like our team at Pedleys – place them on rooftops at the appropriate angle. But in Antarctica, the sun follows a much lower pattern. The effective, yet unusual, move was to mount the 105 solar panels on the northern wall of the solar station. This type of installation also helps protect it from fierce winds.
A Position with Advantages
Located in the Australian Arctic Territory, the farm has access to some solar advantages. On a clear day in summer, Casey’s new solar farm could benefit from 24 hours of sunlight – because it’s on the South Pole. That means it could keep systems powered overnight without relying on batteries. But the solar farm project does face challenges.
Getting the solar farm built was the first challenge. Tasks that required finesse meant that the installers couldn’t wear gloves – this isn’t ideal at all in temperatures below 0°C. And there are other challenges the farm will face. These include:
- Temperature – With average highs of -5.9°C and lows of −12.5°C, technology needs constant care.
- Wind Speeds – Wind in the region can reach up to 300 km/h, posing a threat to installed panels.
- Distance – Being so far away from the mainland and suppliers makes transporting parts slow and difficult.
Even with a harsh environment to battle, the solar farm generates a handy 30 kW. That’s not far off from what residential solar systems can produce. If you’re interested in installing your own array, get in touch with our friendly team online to organise an obligation-free Brisbane solar power quote today.