Technical and economic evaluation of the utilization of solar energy at South Africa's SANAE IV base in Antarctica

Olivier, Jurgen R. ; Harms, Thomas M. ; Esterhuyse, Daniel J. (2007)


The technical and economic feasibility of utilizing solar energy at South Africa's SANAE IV station in Antarctica was evaluated in order to estimate potential financial and external savings, and to alleviate the programme's dependence on the special blend of diesel shipped annually from Cape Town. The average global horizontal and tilted insolation rates at the base were studied, energy consumption data of the station was investigated, technical performance characteristics of devices for harnessing solar energy were assessed and an economic analysis was completed. It was shown that at SANAE IV flat-plate solar thermal collectors could potentially be used in conjunction with the snow smelter (a device that meets the station's fresh water demand) and that photovoltaic modules could feasibly be used to reduce the station's electrical demand. Flat-plate solar thermal collectors could collect solar energy at an average of 3.13 R/kWh (viz. 0.49 US$/kWh) from a suggested 143 m2 array, while comparatively a 40 kWp photovoltaic system would be less economically sound and only able to pay back costs at the end of the system's expected 25-year lifetime, generating electricity at an estimated 3.20 R/kWh (annual electrical consumption at SANAE IV amounts to more than 1062 MWh). The total diesel savings of the solar thermal and photovoltaic systems were estimated at approximately 12 245 and 9958 l, respectively, which represent savings in externalities of R67 338 and R55 879 each.

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