McCully opens Antarctic wind farm

An artist's impression of the wind farm. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of the wind farm. Photo / Supplied

A new joint-venture wind farm at the bottom of the world is expected to cut diesel use by nearly 500,000 litres a year at Scott Base and McMurdo Station.

The wind farm on Ross Island in Antarctica was to have been opened remotely in Auckland by Hillary Clinton, the United States Secretary of State, during her visit to New Zealand. However, she abandoned her visit to return to Washington to co-ordinate the American aid effort for earthquake-devastated Haiti.

Today foreign minister Murray McCully stepped in and in a live link with Antarctica, formally declared the wind farm open.

The three turbines were completed last year and have been providing limited power to New Zealand's Scott Base and the American McMurdo Station during monitoring before being built up to full power output.

Each of the towers sits on a foundation of eight 13-tonne pre-cast concrete blocks arranged in a circle in a pit and was designed to withstand wind gusts of up to 205 km/h.

The three 333Kw towers were built by Meridian Energy with Antarctica New Zealand and the United States Antarctic Program.

In the Northern Club in Auckland today Mr McCully noted that almost a century ago Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole, "recounted his Antarctic exploits here in this beautiful old building."

He said in Amundsen's day instant communication with Antarctica was undreamed of and news from expeditions, whether of triumph or tragedy, travelled back slowly to the outside world with the newsmakers themselves or the survivors of their parties.

He said now the wind farm was to be commissioned from Auckland in a live link to Ross Island.

He told the gathering at the club that when he first formally met Hillary Clinton last year in Washington they discussed the prospect of significant cooperation between New Zealand and the United States in the area of renewable energy provision for smaller pacific island states.

"She responded very positively to the suggestion and since that time we have been working to give shape and substance to this proposal.

"Already significant progress is being made in relation to projects in both Tonga and the Tokelau islands.

"So it is fitting we have worked so hard together to get this wind farm up and running in Antarctica - one of the world's most pristine and fragile environments."

He said the three wind turbines would provide clean, renewable energy, cut diesel use at Scott Base and McMurdo Station by 11 per cent.

- NZPA

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