Australia is the first country to generate a significant amount of renewable energy for an Antarctic station using the most powerful winds on the planet.

The katabatic winds blowing from the inland of the continent make Mawson station ideally situated for power generation by wind turbines.

In 2003, Mawson had two 30 m tall, 300 kW wind turbines installed. This system could provide a total of 600 kW for both powering and heating the station.

In 2017, one of the turbines suffered a critical failure and is no longer operational. Today, the one remaining turbine continues to produce power for Mawson station.

The AAD continues to work with German turbine manufacturer Enercon in supporting the operation and maintenance of the remaining unit.

The Mawson turbine

The turbine at Mawson is a variable-speed, 300 kW machine, mounted on a steel tower. A computer-driven powerhouse management system runs the efficient operation of the turbine. This system manages both the wind resource and power from the diesel generator. This ensures power supply to the station is always optimised and efficient.

Antarctica’s fierce conditions presented some challenges for designing and constructing the turbine. The strong, gusty winds and freezing temperatures can place enormous stresses on wind turbine rotors. Some challenges faced during construction needed innovative solutions:

  • Pouring concrete foundations in freezing conditions
  • Minimising wildlife disturbance
  • Avoiding icing and wind abrasion

Mawson electrical staff receive training in specialised maintenance and servicing of turbines. The training includes safety aspects of working at heights.