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Technical and economic evaluation of the utilisation of solar energy at South Africa's Sanae IV Base in Antarctica

Thesis (MScEng (Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005. / There are numerous challenges that have to be overcome in order to generate the electrical and
thermal energy required to power Antarctic research stations in a technically, economically and
environmentally suitable manner. Consequently the costs associated with generating energy at
these latitudes are high, and ways are constantly being sought to improve energy generation
methods and protect the pristine environment. These endeavours are strongly encouraged by the
Antarctic Treaty.
This thesis aims to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of using solar energy at
South Africa’s SANAE IV (South African National Antarctic Expedition IV) station in
Antarctica. The idea of using solar energy in Antarctica is not novel, and as is shown a number
of stations have already capitalised on opportunities to generate savings in this manner.
Similarly, at SANAE IV, there exists the opportunity to alleviate an increased summer energy
load on the station and reduce diesel consumption through the proper implementation of such a
system. There is also ample scope to use wind energy, which would have a marked positive
impact on the base’s operation.
The data used in this thesis was obtained mainly during the 2004/2005 takeover expedition to
South Africa’s SANAE IV station in Antarctica. Included are measurements of total and diffuse
radiation that were measured during the months of January and February 2005, and which form
an important part of the investigation. Since there are currently no radiation sensors, or any
historical record of measured radiation at the station, the only measured data available from
SANAE IV was the data recorded during the 2004/2005 takeover expedition. By further
collecting archived values of fuel consumption, electricity generation and load profiles, an
energy audit of the station was also completed during the 2004/2005 takeover expedition.
The expected savings that could be generated by solar systems were calculated by considering
the use of both photovoltaic and solar thermal devices at the South African station. The 40 kW
photovoltaic system that was investigated was able to significantly reduce the load on the dieselelectric
generators, however it was only possible to fully recover the initial costs sunk into
commissioning the system after 21 years. The installation of such a system would equate to a Net
Present Value of 302 915 Rand at the end of the 25 year system lifetime (assuming a real hurdle
rate of 8 % and fuel price escalation rate of 5 %), saving 9 958 litres of diesel annually generating energy at a cost of 3.20 Rand/kWh. It should be noted, however, that under more
ideal conditions (i.e. less attractive alternative investment opportunities, higher fuel price
escalation rates and a stronger emphasis on environmental concerns) investment into a
photovoltaic system could potentially breakeven after approximately 10-15 years, while
simultaneously significantly improving base operation.
Furthermore, it was found that a flat-plate solar thermal collector utilised with the snow smelter
at SANAE IV is better suited to generating savings than photovoltaic devices. The average cost
of generating electricity after commissioning such a system with a 143 m2 collector field would
be approximately 3.13 Rand/kWh, as opposed to the 3.21 Rand/kWh of the current diesel-only
system, and would realise an annual fuel saving of approximately 12 245 litres. The system
would arrive at a breakeven point after approximately 6 years, and represent a Net Present Value
of 2 148 811 Rand after 25 years. By further considering environmental factors such as the cost
of removing soiled snow from Antarctica and diesel fuel emissions the magnitude of the net
present savings would increase by approximately 500 000 Rand over the expected 25 year
project lifetime.
The opportunity to install a solar energy system at SANAE IV therefore warrants action. There is
potential not only to generate savings over the operational lifetime but also to preserve the
environment in accordance with the desires of the Antarctic Treaty. It is firmly believed that with
careful planning and implementation such a project can and should be successfully undertaken. / Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies
Date12 1900
CreatorsOlivier, Jurgen Richter
ContributorsHarms, T. M., University of Stellenbosch. Faculty of Engineering. Dept. of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering.
PublisherStellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
Detected LanguageEnglish
Format8781766 bytes, application/pdf
RightsUniversity of Stellenbosch

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