Aust Antarctic base turns to solar power

Conrad Willersdorf, Paulie Hanlon and Doreen McCurdy with the solar panel at Casey research station.
Conrad Willersdorf, Paulie Hanlon and Doreen McCurdy with the solar panel at Casey research station.

One of Australia major Antarctic research stations is now partly solar powered in a move that could pave the way for other outposts to become greener.

More than 100 solar panels were on Tuesday switched on at the remote Casey Research Station, one of Australia's three permanent bases on the frozen continent.

The panels are expected to provide about 10 per cent of the station's yearly energy, reducing reliance on diesel generators and cutting emissions.

"This is the first solar power array at an Australian Antarctic research station and amongst the largest in Antarctica," Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) director Mr Kim Ellis said.

It took two months to install the solar technology on the side wall of the station's green store.

Engineers batted minus seven-degree temperatures and blizzards to put up the panels, which have been adapted to capture the low angle of the sun and withstand extreme cold.

"The cold was a challenge, as the brackets and bolts are small and fiddly and can't be installed while wearing gloves," Casey Station engineering services supervisor Doreen McCurdy said.

"We had to use hand warmers to keep our fingers nimble."

There are plans to connect the panels to a battery storage system and investigate whether solar power can be used at Australia's other Antarctic stations.

"Once the solar system is running, we'll be able to see how it performs as part of the station's power grid," Mr Ellis said.

"From there we can then look at how to get more out of the technology in the future."

Belgium operates a zero-emission research station in Antarctica that runs entirely on solar and wind power.

Australian Associated Press