Wind turbines harness natural energy in Antarctica

Harnessing natural energy from wind turbines isn’t new – but building them in Antarctica is. Our team has been working with Meridian and Antarctic New Zealand on this unique project.

WSP Opus worked with Meridian Energy and Antarctic New Zealand to install and commission three wind turbines to generate electricity for Scott Base and the American McMurdo Station.

The wind farm, located at Crater Hill on Ross Island, forms part of the New Zealand Government’s contribution to the New Zealand/United States joint co-operation initiative. It’s being developed under an alliance between Meridian and Antarctica New Zealand, with logistical support from the United States Antarctic Program.

Apart from the difficulties of working in such a harsh environment, the team also had to overcome the logistical challenges of severely limited site access, a very small construction window (November to February) and the need for designing foundations to within an accuracy of +/- 1mm over a 2.4 m flange level.

With only a single supply ship arriving each year from New Zealand, the team had to plan the logistics extremely carefully to ensure they had everything they needed – including a crane.

The Ross Island electricity network connecting Scott Base and McMurdo Station has the distinction of being the first electricity network in the world to serve towns belonging to two separate countries. The power transmission network operates through several frequency converters, as Scott Base operates at 50 hertz, while McMurdo operates at 60 hertz. A three-ton power-store flywheel system keeps the power output constant.