Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Power production at Mawson

Mawson is unique among the Australian bases as a portion of its power is supplied by wind turbines which are made possible by the stations convenient location of being right at the base of the Antarctic Ice Cap.

The power producing buildings.

Due to the location, it is right in the path of the infamous Katabatic winds, which are produced by air being cooled and becoming dense inland which forces it to flow down the slope of the Plateau and replace the air that is warmed and less dense over the sea. Due to this effect, the average daily wind speed at Mawson is 45kph, perfect for powering wind turbines! But first...

Despite the two 300kw wind turbines, there is still a diesel powered powerhouse very similar to the setup at Davis, with a few important differences.

The MPH (Main Power House)

Since usually we have an excess of power produced by the capabilities of the turbines quite a lot of the station is run on electrical items as opposed to the diesel powered Casey and Davis. For example, the 'site services' water, which is pumped around the station buildings to keep them warm is heated by an electric matrix heater here, unlike the diesel boilers at Davis.

Electric water heaters.

Even though the two turbines can handle 600kw under ideal conditions we still need to have an engine running to compensate for any lulls or gusts in the wind to minimise the chance of black or brown outs around station. The engines we use are the same Caterpillar 125kw 3306 straight 6 engines as used at the other stations but here they run a closed circuit crankcase breather arrangement and electronic throttle actuators and monitoring to make them compatible with the turbines.

Trusty old things!

The 4x 3306s

MPH Control room.

Power sharing between the turbines and engines.

The last big difference is the emergency engine at Mawson is a 27L Caterpillar 3412 turbocharged V12 engine rated at 420+kw.

The EPH (Emergency Power House).

CAT 3412.

The wind turbines themselves, since installed in 2003 have saved the station an estimated 5 million litres of diesel and have reduced the CO2 output by around 1500 tonnes per year, making Mawson one of the most environmentally friendly bases on the continent!

Here is a little, hardly ever updated info page on our power usage: http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/stations/mawson/living/electrical-energy
(I will try to figure out who updates it...)

The upper turbine it all its glory!

50m up from the ground to the hub.

The turbines are most efficient in winds of around 65kph and they feather themselves out for protection if the wind speed is above this. As I mentioned earlier, Mawson is a windy place and they have managed to stay standing in wind gusts of up to 200kph!

From the nacelle to the nose-cone.

The generator itself.

The blade hub from the nose-cone.

Inside the hub and blade.

Each turbine has a little weather station that indicates which way it should be facing and how much pitch should be on the blades.

Weather station

Donkey doing some tests.

From the nacelle through the cargo/emergency hatch.

From the nacelle back down the ladder.
And finally, here is the view of station from the upper turbine, not a bad place to spend a summer...

The view from the top of the upper Turbine.

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