Solar thermal in Antarctica

25.05.2016
The refurbished station in Antarctica now has a solar thermal and PV system. (Photo: Elektro-Mechanik Meisl GmbH)
The refurbished station in Antarctica now has a solar thermal and PV system. (Photo: Elektro-Mechanik Meisl GmbH)

A German research station at Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica, is now equipped with nine air collectors to provide heating during the summer.

The German Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources operates a research station in the Antarctic called Gondwana to carry out research on the trans-arctic mountains. The summer station consists of 20-foot containers where the scientists work. The containers were refurbished as part of the construction expedition MOGS 3, and a solar thermal system was installed in January 2016 to provide part of the heating needed during the two to three summer months when research is conducted.

Autonomous air collectors from Grammer Solar GmbH were installed on the north-east facade of the existing station containers as well as on the newly constructed technical container. A total of nine Twinsolar 2.0 collectors with a surface area of 18 m² increase the temperature of the air inside by as much as 40 °C. The air is channelled into the interior by the integrated fan via an insulated pipe. When the required temperature is reached, a thermostat automatically switches the system off. The solar thermal system has an overall peak power of 11.7 kW.

The simple system technology and the use of air as the heat transfer medium make the system particularly resistant to stalling at very low temperatures.

The system fan is driven by PV electricity. Elektro-Mechanik Meisl GmbH was the general contractor in charge of installing the PV system and other technical equipment. Two new technical buildings were constructed to house the PV system and other new systems. Power is supplied by a stand-alone PV system with 6 kW total capacity, a 3-phase Sunny Island inverter system SI 8.0 and a lithium iron phosphate battery system with a storage capacity of 38.4 kWh. The battery can be charged at temperatures as low as -10 °C.  The research station also has two redundant kerosene generators with 35 kW power.

Tanja Peschel

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