Antarctic wind to power Australian station

12 January 2003

Blades and turbine towers for Australia's wind power generation in Antarctica depart Hobart today aboard the supply ship Polar Bird for installation at Mawson station.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic Dr Sharman Stone said that the Australian Antarctic Division's (AAD) project to install three wind turbines was the first serious attempt by any nation to obtain a significant electricity supply from some of the world's most powerful winds.

The turbines have been provided by German company Enercon and the system's technology will be installed by Powercorp Pty Ltd of Darwin.

Dr Stone said that AAD engineers, in collaboration with the manufacturer and its Australian agents, had worked to develop the world's first cold-region turbine and control system following the Federal Government's announcement of the project in August 2001.

Dr Stone said that the turbine system would result in a much lower environmental impact than the current practice of burning diesel fuel to obtain power.

"The use of wind power at Mawson will drastically reduce the station's use of fossil fuel which needs to be transported from ship to shore and stored before being used," she said.

It is expected that when conditions are suitable at Mawson, power could be generated without using diesel.

Project manager Peter Magill says "wind modelling indicates that over a full year the turbines could provide 100 per cent of the energy for up to 80 per cent of the time, by harnessing the katabatic winds that howl down to the coast from the inland ice cap at speeds of more than 250 kph."

Mr Magill said that over the past 18 months, installation machinery had been shipped south and foundations for two of the turbines poured.

"The delivery of the blades and turbines to Mawson means that the project can proceed on schedule with the wind turbine generators and powerhouse control systems installed this summer," said Mr Magill.

Dr Stone said, "harnessing the power of Antarctica's powerful katabatic winds is an obvious choice for renewable energy options on the southern continent."

Polar Bird is scheduled to sail at 5pm today.