Sunshine Returns to Antarctica
As you can see from this webcam image, the first light has reached Princess Elisabeth Antarctica, as the long dark winter starts drawing to a close. The station is uninhabited during the southern winter, and controlled remotely via satellite. With no photons arriving to fire up the solar panels, the research station relies on wind energy from its turbines and on electricity stored in its batteries.
Over the last few days, enough sunlight has touched the Zero Emission station's solar panels to wake up the team of “Sunny Boys” - inverters that convert power coming from the solar panels so that it's compatible with the station's electric installation. The first Sunny Boy awoke on July 15th, along with four others. Now eight are running, a little under half of station’s total capacity.
With such a small quantity of sunlight, the solar panels aren't really producing much energy yet, but the station's smart grid is reacting to the end of the long polar night: Princess Elisabeth Antarctica is waking up.
“Actually, ten of these Sunny Boys showed up today and a few Watts where even produced for the first time after mid-May” says station engineer Erik Verhagen. "It is all going much faster than expected".
No humans will return to Princess Elisabeth Antarctica until November – but preparations are already under way for another summer season packed with scientific endeavor.
Note: Sunny Boy is a product by SMA Solar Technology AG
Picture: Webcam image from Princess Elisabeth Antarctica, July 2012 - © 2012 International Polar Foundation