An engineering team from the Australian Antarctic Division has won the prestigious President’s Prize at the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards for developing a wind-hydrogen system at Mawson station in Antarctica.

In congratulating the team last week, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said it was heartening to have innovative work in sustainable energy systems recognised.

“It is an excellent example of the Australian Government leading the way in environmental responsibility and great to see national acknowledgement for this team of very talented and dedicated people,” he said.

The President’s prize is awarded annually at the discretion of the National President of Engineers Australia for services to the engineering profession. It recognises members who have promulgated the contribution engineering makes to the general welfare of the Australian people.

A key theme for this year’s President, Mr Doug Jones, has been sustainability and ensuring engineers and industry leaders assume sustainable practices in all that they do.

When awarding the prize, Mr Jones said: 'The award is for the intensely innovative work performed by these engineers in developing a sustainable energy system that incorporates wind power generation and hydrogen fuel cells.

'This environmentally-sound, cost effective, sustainable energy system is the first serious attempt by any nation to use wind power generation in Antarctica on a large scale.'

The Australian Antarctic Division’s engineering team is led by Chief Engineer, Chris Paterson.

Senator Campbell said that as well as recognising the Mawson wind turbines and the hydrogen demonstration project, the award also acknowledged the Australian Antarctic Division’s proactive management of the satellite link between Kingston and the Antarctic stations to make the most efficient use of bandwidth, and the work of the mechanical workshop in the refurbishment (recycling) of Hägglunds vehicles.

He said the two wind turbines operating at Mawson station were leading to considerable energy savings and significantly reducing the amount of diesel fuel that has to be shipped into Antarctica.

To further develop the potential of sustainable energy, trials would begin this summer at Mawson to generate hydrogen using energy from the Mawson wind turbines. The Australian Antarctic Division received a grant of half a million dollars from the Australian Greenhouse Office to demonstrate the use of hydrogen generated by wind in Antarctica.

The hydrogen will be stored and used in a test fuel cell and as fuel in a heater and a cooker at a scientific research site near Mawson.

Senator Campbell said that the Australian Antarctic Division had proved itself internationally as an environmental leader being the first of the Antarctic Treaty nations to have its environmental management system certified to the international standard (ISO 14001).