Energy in the Antarctic

23 September 2003

Rising like enormous sculptures, the Australian Government's Antarctic wind turbines are proving to be a great substitute for diesel-produced energy and heating for Mawson station in Antarctic.

And now, energy credits (called Renewable Energy Certificates) earned by these wind turbines, have been bought by Westpac Banking Corporation, which will help build new renewable energy capability elsewhere in the Antarctic and Australia.

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage, said the agreement with Westpac would see the forward sale of 1,000 RECs a year for the next decade.

"1,000 RECs represents 1,000 Mega Watt hours (MWh) which is equivalent to enough energy to run about 120 average households for a year," Dr Stone said.

"The Australian Government's drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions includes the world's first mandatory renewable energy target.

"These require electricity retailers and buyers to source an additional 9,500 GWh of their electricity per year from renewable sources by 2010.

"These new sources could be, for example, from wind, solar, hydro or tidal energy," Dr Stone said.

Each MWh of renewable energy generated earns one REC which can then be traded by the owner.

"In effect, RECs are a new form of currency designed to create incentives for power generators to help meet Australia's target to reduce greenhouse emissions," Dr Stone said.

"Owners of renewable energy generators, such as the Australian Government's new Antarctic wind turbines, can trade their RECs to other electricity retailers.

"Not only are we working towards a cleaner environment by reducing our fossil fuel consumption especially diesel, we are also helping offset the cost of the Australian Antarctic Division's wind turbine project in Antarctica.

"The installation of the giant wind turbines at Mawson station are well on their way to reducing the amount of diesel fuel required by over two thirds, from 600,000 litres a year to less than 200,000 litres.

"At the moment we are shipping diesel fuel to Mawson station every year to provide energy for power and heating.

"The wind turbines should produce enough energy to reduce the need to resupply diesel to only one trip every three years.

"The wind turbines also have the potential to save 1,500 tonnes of CO2 a year from being released into the pristine Antarctic environment which is the same as taking 330 cars off the roads in Australia."

The Mawson wind farm was accepted as an accredited power station from 7 April 2003. The two wind turbines at Mawson are expected to generate 1,500 RECs in 2003, estimated to rise to 2,200 in 2004 with the addition of further improvements to their performance.

"The installation of additional specialised equipment this summer will give the new power grid an even greater capacity to generate energy from the wind," Dr Stone said.

"The Mawson wind farm project has been recognised as an engineering feat of significance recently winning an Excellence Award from the Tasmanian Institution of Engineers, putting it in the running for a national award in November."

Dr Stone said the Antarctic wind turbine project cost approximately $6.5 million.

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 establishes the rules for creating renewable certificates. It states, among other things, that each REC must have its own unique code and be registered by the Renewable Energy Regulator before they are considered valid.