Green Energy Passes Real Life Tests!
Another week has passed and the storm has come and gone; however it came at a time that prevented the BELARE members we were meant to welcome from landing.
The sun came back in time for Kristof's birthday. Kristof's sense of humour is so rock solid that not even the storm can dent it. People smile in expectation when he arrives, because they are sure he will raise the mood. The cooks expressed our thanks for his gift by making him a dinner to be remembered. A sauce of morilles and asparagus of unbeatable delectation was not surpassed even by the moist chocolate birthday cakes (all three of them) complete with birthday candles in twirls and little plastic holders.
We have been forging ahead with the fine-tuning of the Active Systems. Most days Johan or Sven will stick their head around the door into the office to tell me some good news, some breakthrough or some difficulty they are having.
Sometimes Thomas comes to tell me how he's doing with the water production from the thermal solar panels, and we watch excitedly as the number of litres begins to creep up, while Jean frets about the temperature of the panels, which he follows in intimate detail on his computer screen. It's a tough job trying to get everything running up to optimal levels to be able to do the tests when the systems can't run optimally until they are fully functioning, which means that you have to balance supply and the demand.
Dominique is preparing to do the first bioreactor tests with Bernard using just water to check for leaks in the system. We were allowed showers two days in a row as the system was tested to see how it would manage. Michael is in a cocky mood as he finds a pump that had been installed back to front in the ventilation system. There are still some ventilation issues in the technical core, but we are slowly ironing these out.
For a while now it has also been solid gains with the grid, as Sven has relentlessly pursued the Holy Grail of full synchronized operation with the generators. Last night, at 10:10 pm with the last parameters tweaked, we were suddenly running entirely on renewable energy for the first time. We have abundant solar and wind energy. The batteries are full, and finally the gensets are talking to the PLC. It is a moment of quiet triumph. We hold our collective breath to see how it will perform, and in the morning everything is still running. The power is stabilizing. Wim is smiling contentedly.
The mood is upbeat. The fuel platform was completed in just under four days, all sixty meters of steel sitting on the ridge. It was exhausting and the wind often less than balmy.
On Tuesday, Sanne and Alain T. took Steve Roberts and Elie Verleyn to Brattnipene. The site is everything they had hoped for apparently, and they are making good progress. Alain came back alone and now he and René take the biologists, Zorigto and Josef, to check out promising sites for extreme life forms. You need very particular conditions to catch sight of the earliest and most archaic types of life. You can't go where anything else like snow petrels live because their presence contaminates the site with organic material that covers up the traces of the cyanobacteria.
The days tick by, and Alain, François and Koen begin working on the satellite platform. Yes, another platform to build. Then it will be the new windmills. The work never stops around here.
Picture: International Polar Foundation - © International Polar Foundation