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Power Technology

How Engineers Are Building a Power Station At the South Pole 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the cold-work dept.
KentuckyFC writes "One of the more ambitious projects at the South Pole is the Askaryan Radio Array, a set of radio antennas under the ice that will listen for the tell tale signals of high energy neutrinos passing by. This array will eventually be over a thousand times bigger than the current largest neutrino detector: Icecube, which monitors a cubic kilometer of ice next door to the planned new observatory. But there's a problem. How do you supply 24/7 power to dozens of detectors spread over such a vast area in the middle of the Antarctic? The answer is renewable energy power stations that exploit the sun during the summer and the wind all year round. The first of these stations is now up and running at the South Pole and producing power. It is also helping to uncover and iron out the various problems that these stations are likely to encounter. For example; where to put the batteries needed to supply continuous power when all else fails. The team's current approach is to bury the battery to protect it from temperature extremes. That works well but makes maintenance so difficult that scaling this approach to dozens of power stations doesn't seem feasible. That's a problem for the future but for the moment, green power has finally come to the white continent."
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How Engineers Are Building a Power Station At the South Pole

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  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday March 10, 2014 @06:02PM (#46450177) Homepage Journal

    They want to know how to generate power at a place that gets lots of sun half the year and has a steady wind?
    And they chose solar and wind? wow..shocking.
    Stop asking questions that are answered in the in article as a headline.

  • Re:Why not nukes? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Solandri (704621) on Monday March 10, 2014 @06:56PM (#46450581)
    The overhead associated with operating a commercial nuclear power plant (maintenance, safety requirements, fuel transport and storage, etc) means they don't become economically viable until you're servicing a population of about a half million. That's what Honolulu doesn't have a nuclear plant even though it'd be almost ideal for their remote location. Currently they get most of their electricity from burning fuel oil, and consequently have the highest electricity prices in the U.S. - about $0.30/kWh vs the national average of $0.12/kWh. Cost on the islands other than Oahu is even higher (about $0.45/kWh) because they have less access to oil and have to rely more on renewables.

    With a population of just under 400,000, you couldn't run a small commercial reactor full-power 24/7 as they like to be run. You'd have to ramp it up and down throughout the day, which greatly increases operational costs. In the rest of the country, nuclear provides 24/7 baseline power. Coal plants can ramp up/down more quickly, but it still takes a while so they also provide baseline power. Fluctuations in power use through the day are handled by oil and gas plants (which can ramp up/down almost instantly) and hydro (which can ramp up/down instantly).

    A RTG (generates heat through nuclear decay, not an induced nuclear reaction) could work. The Soviets used to power many of their remote lighthouses with them. But the wind in Antarctica is very strong and very consistent, and would seem to be the obvious go-to energy source given the scale and remote location (minimal maintenance crew).

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead

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