> Home > Examples > McMurdo Sound

McMurdo Sound Area Hybrid Systems
Joe Yarkin

Tracy Dahl
CH2M Hill Polar Services

McMurdo area 
McMurdo Sound area map
System Solar icon Wind icon Battery icon Engine icon Photovoltaic/wind hybrid with battery back-up.
Location Research sites near the McMurdo Sound, Ross Ice Shelf, and the dry valleys (78 S 165 E).
F6 - Lake Fryxell Lake Bonney Mt. Erebus New Harbor

In and around the vicinity of McMurdo Sound is an area of intensive scientific study in Antarctica. From the Dry Valleys to the top of Antarctica’s only active volcano, Mt. Erebus, the area offers unique opportunities for polar research.  Numerous field camps and facilities are served through McMurdo Station: http://www.nsf.gov/od/opp/support/mcmurdo.jsp

McMurdo is the largest research station in Antarctica, and the primary logistics hub of the US Antarctic Program. Featuring an early summer operations only sea-ice airport, as well as a long season ice shelf airport, and a deep-water port to load and unload large supply vessels, the station has over 1,500 researchers and support staff base from or pass through each year.  From McMurdo, multiple small research camps are originated and supplied. Most of the camps are served with Bell 212 freight and the smaller A-Star helicopters, to transport people, supplies and fuel. Fuel shipments to field camps are prohibitively expensive and have been estimated to cost as high as $15- 25/gallon.

Traditionally (since the 1960s) the model has been to house sets of two diesel generators at each camp to supply electrical power only when a generator was running. Because of varying loads, power was frequently turned on and off, and often 6-kW or 12-kW generators were run to power a 50-Watt load, such as a single laptop computer. This practice worked but had serious drawbacks. It was noisy, produced emissions that at times conflicted with research objectives, and was wasteful of fossil fuel. The unstable and low-load conditions would stress the diesel engines shortening the time between maintenance intervals and leading to short service lives.

Starting in the late 1990’s, as solar electric and small wind technologies became available, they began to be introduced into the field camps. This has resulted in great environmental benefits and cost savings through reduction in fuel usage. By 2005, twelve permanent camps were retrofitted with solar panels, battery banks, and in several cases wind generators. The results have been tremendous improvements in fuel economy, reduced environmental impact, and full-time electric service. The following camps are some examples of the retrofits done, where renewable energy technologies are used to enhance the quality of the research platform by providing clean, quiet electrical power.

Data Power system supports camp infrastructure only. No system performance or scientific data are logged or communicated.
Comms Systems power camp communications infrastructure (HF and iridium voice/data with telex back-up) but does not transfer scientific data.