One of two wind turbines installed to help power Australia’s Mawson research station in Antarctica has partially collapsed, in an unexplained incident in the middle of last week.
The Australian Antarctic Division reported on Wednesday that the head of one of the Enercon E30 turbines had fallen to the ground on Tuesday night, during what was relatively “modeate” weather at the Antarctic research base. No one was injured.
The second turbine was deactivated as a precautionary measure, and will remain off until the cause of the fault was discovered, leaving the station’s 550kW diesel power generator as the only source of power for the time being.
The wind turbines have been in operation at Mawson since 2003, and have since managed on occasion to provide up to 95 per cent of the station’s power. On average, they have provided about half of the station’s power each year.
As reported here, in 2014 alone, the two turbines generated enough electricity to reduce Mawson’s diesel consumption by 288,000 liters, directly saving the AAD $263,000 in fuel costs.
The AAD also gained greater flexibility in scheduling resupply ships; instead of requiring a shipment of diesel fuel at least once per year to meet the station’s needs, the AAD can now send a refueling shipment every other year.
General Manager of Support and Operations, Dr Rob Wooding, said the cause of the incident was unknown and would be fully investigated.
“While Mawson can experience regular blizzards, the conditions over the last few days have been moderate, with wind gusts of up to 40 knots,” he said.
“Thankfully all expeditioners were safely inside and it didn’t land near any buildings or other equipment.
“They heard the noise, they went out, and saw that this had happened.”