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Low Energy Day at the Princess Elisabeth Station

The autonomous functioning of the station depends on the seamless operation of all the active systems. The programming to achieve this is gradually being polished up as new anomalies or contradictions appear in the global system of prioritizing users of the precious kilowatts. The active or intelligent technical systems are closely integrated and depend on each other to function, and everyone depends on the grid for energy.

So long as the sun shines or the wind blows, all goes well. But then it snows, heavily. With the snow covering the solar panels, and the wind suddenly dropping, we experience a "Low Energy Day".

The season is coming to an end, and the work planning is tight. We need to finish the conversion of the containers into a mobile station, and complete the technical installation and testing of the satellite antenna and the network. Everyone is under pressure to finish their work plan before their flight has to leave. Despite the declared shortage, there are still people who decide to do laundry, much to the consternation of those who want to watch a film or bake bread.

The human interface is the hardest part to program into this new scheme of things. The active systems have a set of energy priorities which are programmed upstream, so the user defined priority issues begin to come to a head. The configuration of the man-machine interface is now the real problem.

Clean living will require a re-education, a re-examination of all priorities, literally. If we are going to share this planet between all 9 billion of us by mid-century, it will become imperative that we learn to reduce our expectations with regard to energy, to re-learn our relationship with limited resources. It is going to take quite some effort to optimize what we have on this planet to avoid the whole thing from degenerating into a free-for-all.

Meanwhile, we are planning another trip to the coast to collect the last of the containers sitting at the Crown Bay Depot, so that they are not covered with snow at the beginning of next season. On the way back, Alain will complete the measurements of snow deposition and density for the LGGE. If the weather deteriorates, it is unlikely that we will be able to do anything much. However, the convoy is ready and unless the weather gets really rough tomorrow, the traverse is unlikely to be called off.

Nighat Amin

Author: IPF

Picture: International Polar Foundation - © International Polar Foundation

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