The Ross Island Wind Farm

propelling the program

Yes, the Antarctic program finally got seriously into alternative energy. Above is a December 2007 conceptual view of the three machine towers on the hill behind Scott Base (2008).

This NZ$10 million project was actually spearheaded by the New Zealand program. The contractor is Meridian Energy Ltd. (NZ) which was also putting in a much larger project around windy Wellington at the same time. The first phase of the Ross Island project consists of 3 330KW machines located on a ridgeline of Crater Hill midway between Scott Base and McMurdo Station, as seen above. These turbines are German built Enercon E-33 direct-drive machines, which are only slightly larger than two similar units which are in service at Mawson. This was a 2 year project--in 2008-09 the early season effort consisted of excavation to hard rock, and setting eight 14-ton precast footings for each tower. The footings, which had been shipped to the ice on the 2007-08 vessel, were firmly attached to the rock with two 39-foot ground anchors, using bentonite slurry. All this was completed before Christmas 2008. 20-ton steel "spiders" were shipped down on the 2008-09 vessel and bolted to the concrete blocks, which were backfilled to be frozen in for the winter before construction continued. Each "spider" connects to the 121-foot turbine tower; the turbine itself has a 110-foot blade diameter.

blocked in
Some of the precast footings staged
before installation (2008).
a firm footing at McMurdo
Here's one of the steel foundations sitting on top of those
precast concrete footings. And a good view...(20 February 2009/Phil Roberts)

The civil and erection work was a joint project between the US and NZ programs...USAP did some of the site work including access roads and transportation. Meridian shipped down a 35-ton Caterpillar 330CL excavator in 2007-08 for the foundation installation work. Most of the turbine project material was shipped down in 2008-09 aboard the USAP resupply vessel MV American Tern, which arrived on 24 January 2009. The heaviest item was 44 tons (40 tonnes)--a Kobelco BM600 65 ton lattice-boom crawler crane to be used for the tower and turbine erection, as there were no appropriate USAP cranes at McMurdo for this project.

As for the electrical side of the project--all of the primary distribution is 4160V/60 HZ (US standard) fed from Crater Hill to Scott Base, and a second feeder from Crater Hill to McMurdo. At Scott Base, a milvan-mounted static frequency converter converts the power to the 50 HZ frequency used there. Also at McMurdo at the ball park is a "Powerstore" rotary flywheel system to absorb and smooth out any load fluctuations--from ABB here is a project information page--alas, the ABB PDF data sheet with great detail has disappeared without being archived, but here's a PDF of the project presentation given by Owen Roberts at the April 2012 Polar Technology Conference in Fairlee, VT (which I attended).

The electrical system between Scott Base and McMurdo was tested by powering Scott Base from the McMurdo power plant for more than 48 hours; this also provided training of operators at both sites for when the system was commissioned early in the 2009-10 season.

Two thirds of the electricity produced from this phase goes to McMurdo...and the rest to Scott Base. This installation provides about 15% of the demand from McMurdo, and 87% of the electrical demand at Scott Base, with fuel savings of about 120,000 gallons per year. As for the future, preliminary studies have been done to locate up to 10 additional turbine sites in the Arrival Heights area, although some of these are in the Specially Protected Area. Alternative sites north of town could accommodate perhaps 4 machines.

This information page from Meridian Energy includes two videos about the project as well as additional photos. Below, a couple of February 2009 ship offload photos:

switch blade
Here some of the turbine blades are being hauled from the ice pier to the storage site in the Gap...these are NOT small turbine blades! (3 February/Phil Roberts).
tower down
Here some of the tower sections are being staged for storage in the Gap (3 February/Phil Roberts).
end of season hero shot with partially erected turbine towers

Three of the 2009 photos above were provided courtesy of contractor Meridian Energy representative Phil Roberts, as supporting information to Meridian's 27 February 2009 press release (archive). The photos labeled (2008) are from this 2009 Meridian project update. Information also came from an earlier 2008 Meridian press release (archive), which provided more information. The photo at left is an end-of-season hero shot showing the partially erected turbine towers, from this archived Meridian stage 1 project report. Additional information was provided by Meridian Energy project manager Scott Bennett and by this September 2008 Antarctic Sun article. Thanks!

More pictures and information from the 2009-10 project completion are here.