Transporting fuel and oil to Antarctica is a costly and sometimes risky exercise. Before the introduction of renewable energy systems, Australian stations required 2.1 megalitres of diesel fuel every year for power and heating. Burning this fuel emitted around 5,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the Antarctic environment.
Using alternative, renewable energy systems has many benefits including:
- large scale reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases
- reduced risks of oil spills and damage to the environment
- reduction in the direct cost of power generation
- increased efficiency of station operations.
Sir Douglas Mawson saw the potential for wind-generated power in Antarctica, and ANARE has continued to explore this interest. Experiments at Heard Island, and later at Mawson during the 1960s, demonstrated the potential of wind power.
However, generating wind power on the windiest continent on Earth is challenging. Strong, gusty winds, abrasion from the impact of snow particles and long periods of freezing temperatures, have all made it difficult to develop reliable technology.
Today, wind power and solar power both contribute to the Australian Antarctic Program’s energy needs.