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Power Technology

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

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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  • Re:Microwaves? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Monday March 10, 2014 @06:57PM (#46450587)

    >Kind of like how most of the rest of the world does it.

    Sorry, but no. There's a world of difference between power lines and microwaves - as best I can tell microwave power transmission is currently at the proof of concept stage - "In 2008 a long range transmission experiment successfully transmitted 20 watts 92 miles (148 km) from a mountain on Maui to the main island of Hawaii." Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

    There's also a reason you usually only hear serious proposals in relation to space-based power generation - that pesky old inverse-square law means that the power density diffuses in two dimensions - if you need an antenna a mile wide to catch the bulk of the energy, but it's only 1/10th of a mile tall, then you're throwing away 9/10 of the energy. Alternately if you can manage a tight enough focus to receive megawatts of power with a small antenna array, then everything else that happens to get in the way will likely be cooked alive. When the transmitter is in space that's much less of an issue - large flat antennas covering many acres are a much easier engineering challenge than towering monstrosities, allowing relatively diffuse power densities. Also there's essentially zero overshoot - any energy not captured by your antennas will hit the ground beneath it - absorbed or reflected it's not much of an issue for the guy down the street, though it might be exciting having your antarctic power station melting it's way into the glacier...

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming