I am norwegian doctor who worked as expedition doc on the Antarctic research station Troll for the summer season 2007-2008. NB: This blog is intended as a personal and ecological account from The Ice Planet - fully independent of the Norwegian Polar Institute, their official web page being: npweb.npolar.no

05 Feb 2008

Sustainable energy...maybe

All the power at Troll is generated from diesel. The diesel needs to be shipped in from the shelf by vehicles running on diesel, and before that, by ships running on even worse stuff.

What about renewable energy? The most obvious options are wind and solar energy. Solar energy could be a good option - we have lots of ice to put panels on, and excellent semi-desert cloud conditions, but the main drawback is that the sun is hiding - completely - for at least 2 months during mid-winter.

Wind is more reliable, mainly due to "katabatic winds". These winds are caused by cold air rushing down from the polar plateau, increasing in intensity and speed as the air is forced through narrow nunatak corridors to our south.

As a first step towards harnessing the katabatic power, we raised a "measuring mast" on the windward side of the station. Every 5 m or so up the mast there are small wind propellers for measuring wind speed. The measurments will be stored on a chip at the base of the mast, and will eventually be sent to the windmill constructors, who will process the data to find out how high to build the mast, and to decide if we should rather try another location (or stick to diesel).

Most of the station crew helped out at raising, as all the wires supporting the mast had to be kept tight at all times to keep the whole thing from toppling sideways, or back down.

As a warning to approaching aircraft or helicopters, we made a half-hearted attempt to paint the mast red.

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