President's Prize

AAD engineers in the mechanical workshop at Kingston
AAD engineers in the mechanical workshop at Kingston (Photo: R. Warren)
The two wind turbines at Mawson StationA Hagglunds on Crooked LakeExamining the tracks of a Hagglunds in the Kingston workshopAAD engineer Peter Magill with the high pressure hydrogen storage cylinders

29 November 2004

AAD engineers have won the prestigious Engineers Australia President's Prize at the Australian Engineering Awards of Excellence announced last week. AAD Chief Engineer, Chris Paterson, and his team received the award for their innovative work in developing a sustainable energy system at Australia's Antarctic stations.

Awarded annually at the discretion of the National President of Engineers Australia, the President's Prize recognises engineers who have made a major contribution to the general welfare of the Australian people.

Sustainability was a major theme for President Mr Doug Jones this year, designated as the Australian Year of the Built Environment.

AAD engineering projects of particular note include:

Mr Jones was particularly impressed with the integration of the wind turbines into the Mawson energy grid. It is in fact the first serious attempt by any nation to use wind power generation in Antarctica on a large scale.

At the awards ceremony on Canberra on 24 November, Mr Jones noted:

The Mawson Station wind turbine system ranks among the world's most innovative. Capable of providing nearly a megawatt of renewable power, these turbines master winds in excess of 250 km/h … Battling extreme blizzard conditions in the fierce Antarctic climate, with strong, gusty winds and freezing temperatures, the logistics of installing efficient turbines posed significant challenges to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of AAD engineers.

The installation machinery was far heavier than anything previously transported to an ANARE station, with components weighing up to 13 tonnes and measuring 15 meters in length. Special cranes and transport equipment were required to move the components from the supply vessel to the site.

To further utilise the wind turbine system, AAD engineers are investigating the potential to generate hydrogen using energy from the wind turbines. In the demonstration project, hydrogen generated in this way will be stored and used in a test fuel cell, as fuel in a heater and in one of the station vehicles.

The test fuel cell and heater will be installed at the field camp on Bechervaise Island to provide electricity and heat for the scientists involved in the penguin monitoring program.

Mr Jones was also impressed with the fact that The wind turbine system has a much lower impact on the environment than burning diesel fuel and, when the system is fully developed, an Antarctic station will for the first time be able to use a renewable source to meet virtually all its energy needs.

AAD engineers hope that by 2007 renewable energy sources will provide much of the power requirements of all our continental stations, making future Antarctic operations more environmentally sound and cost effective.

For more information see earlier This Week in Antarctica stories:

Written by Annie Rushton