Mawson wind turbines a success

Wind turbine with sunset in the background
Mawson wind turbine (Photo: John Smith)

10 July 2006

After three years of successful operation, Antarctica's first wind farm at Australia's Mawson station has achieved annual fuel savings of 29%.

Australian Antarctic Division engineer Peter Magill, said further fine tuning of the control system associated with the two wind turbines and the power house, should see annual fuel savings boosted to 45-50%.

"The turbines are extremely reliable and have performed as expected. However, the control system needs some fine tuning to improve the overall performance and we anticipate sending trained technicians to do this next summer," Mr Magill said.

The two wind turbines operate in one of the windiest places on earth, with wind speeds of up to 250 kilometres an hour, or 69 metres per second, possible. However, average wind speeds are a more modest 12 metres per second.

The turbines work alongside a diesel generator which supplies power to the station when the wind drops – usually for a few hours in the middle of the day. Waste heat from the generator is used to heat the station buildings, further reducing fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

"The amount of fuel savings achieved is directly related to the average wind speed," Mr Magill said.

"In months of high winds the fuel savings are over 50%, but they drop to around 10% in less windy months. These savings are on top of the nearly 50% in fuel savings achieved by using the waste heat from the power house generators."

As fuel prices rise and the Mawson turbines continue to demonstrate their reliability, Australia may consider installing wind turbines at Casey and Davis.

Other countries operating in Antarctica are now following Australia's lead and considering installing wind turbines.

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