The Climate ActiOn JuniOr League (COOL) team from CLP tested the performance of a solar-powered device placed on a sledge, which has been developed for explorer Robert Swan's over 1,000 km fossil-free walk in Antarctica, Abhay Potdar, Vice President, Operations & Maintenance, CLP India, informs R Srinivasan.
The company (CLP) recently concluded Project Climate ActiOn JuniOr League (COOL) 2011, a unique programme where five CLP IT and engineering professionals, dubbed “Cool Captains”, from Hong Kong, Australia, Mainland China and India participated in a three-week expedition to Antarctica. ‘Project Cool' is the company's initiative to provide an innovative learning opportunity for outstanding engineers to apply their professional skills to a meaningful cause in an extremely challenging environment.
The year 2011 marks the second year of the project. This year, the team tested the performance of their indigenously-designed solar-powered energy device, which is embedded in a sledge, in the rugged, icy Antarctica landscape. This device has been specially developed for leading environmentalist Robert Swan, who will bring it along on his fossil-fuel-free, over 1,000 km ‘return walk', a journey between the South Pole and the Antarctic Coast in 2012. [It is called the ‘return walk' since the earlier walk was done by Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton around 1905]. The solar-powered equipment is expected to serve as a mobile mini power station and provide energy for heating, cooking and transforming ice into water.
In addition, the telecommunication system at the 2041 E-base was retrofitted so that weather data can be collected and transmitted to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) for analysis.
Abhay Potdar, Vice President, Operations & Maintenance, CLP India, who participated in the expedition this year, shares his experience:
Kindly give us details of the solar-powered energy device that is fitted on a sled. How many MW does the mobile mini-power station provide for heating, cooking and transforming ice into water?The prototype has been designed for explorer Robert Swan's return journey in 2012. The date [of the journey] is yet to be decided since the prototype is yet to be perfected before that journey. The solar panel is wrapped with Velcro around a lightweight [since it needs to be lugged by people] carbon-fibre acapulca sled. The sled also contains a battery pack, which will store the energy generated by flexible solar panels. There are totally six metres of panels of which about three metres (of one side of the sled) will be exposed to the sun at any point of time when it is moving. But when the team halts, the Velcro strap-on panels can be removed and laid out on the ground and will produce full power of about 200 watts. A period of sunshine will accordingly be chosen for the expedition. On the sled the battery pack will need to be charged on a daily basis because weight is at a premium. The total weight of the equipment plus the sled should be around 40 to 45 kg.
The sled is a readymade one which was organised by 2041, an NGO based in USA and headed by Robert Swan. We are supporting him to power up the base station and his fossil-free return walk.
What in-built features ensure that it survives in the icy Antarctica landscape?The solar device was designed by our Hong Kong team. All the power generated by the solar panels will be stored in batteries and when the expedition team sets up camp, they can use it for cooking food, heating the tent, boiling water and converting ice into water for drinking purposes. We have tested the prototype at Collins Glacier and melted ice to prove that it is possible. The batteries are special gel batteries so that they can survive the cold environment since the performance of normal batteries goes down in such icy cold conditions. Gel, unlike distilled water, will not spill over when the sled is moving or even if the sled rolls over.
There are also plans to put two tiny micro wind turbines on the sled so that when it moves, the kinetic wind energy can generate some energy. But the challenge is to get that kind of ultra-light wind turbines so we are looking for such a manufacturer - that is another area which we want to work upon.
As for the base station, it uses solar and wind power. Here, we set up the dumpload, solar controller and rectifier.
Power from the (solar and wind) generators is converted into DC power and stored in batteries and when it is drawn back from the batteries it is converted to AC power and used. The rectifier converts power from AC to DC and the inverter converts back from DC to AC. In a situation of excess power being generated, it is dumped into the dumpload which works like a heater and warms the base station.
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