While the Eastern Seaboard sears under triple-digit temperatures, clean energy systems certified by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory are supplying ice-bound research bases at the bottom of the world with critical power during the frigid darkness of the Antarctic winter.
Later this year, other systems being tested by the NREL engineering team are expected to generate power during the endlessly bright polar summer months.
The combined results, along with energy conservation measures, will contribute to new renewable energy and energy-efficient construction standards in Antarctica and other remote locations, where both environmental protection and reliable energy supplies are critical to the success of scientific missions.
The projects also will serve as distant, but powerful reminders that if renewable energy systems can succeed in ferocious conditions, they should have widespread application in more temperate locations.
“There is no design standard for minus-100 degrees F,” said NREL senior mechanical engineer Ian Baring-Gould, who leads the Laboratory’s work in polar environments. “If wind and solar energy systems can work in Antarctica, then certainly they should work in places like Kansas.”
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