Future-proofing the frozen continent

Hostile but vulnerable,  Antarctica’s unique  ecosystem is a natural  laboratory that plays a critical part in environmental research and understanding global climate change.

Uruguay’s Base Artigas is at the forefront of  this important  work. Situated on the inhospitable north-east coast of Antarctica, the base hosts scientists from Instituto Antartico  Uruguayo (IAU) as they conduct crucial environmental research. In a place where temperatures can plummet to -40°C and winds reach 200km/h,  it is a challenging environment for human survival, never mind the installation of  a complex solar power plant. But this was precisely IAU’s aim.

Traditionally Antarctic bases were powered by diesel generators, a costly option with high environmental impact.  Due to the delicate nature of the Antarctic tundra, there’s a  pressing need  to reduce the effect of work carried out in the  frozen continent. 

In 2018, IAU and the Uruguayan utility company UTE took  crucial first steps towards a renewable future, with the first solar installation at Base Artigas. Now they were focused on a  second installation.


The Challenge

  • Follow the success of Uruguay’s  1st Antarctic solar project
  • Negotiate harsh frozen terrain to  power a 2nd installation in 3 days

The Partners

  • Instituto Antartico Uruguayo (end-user)
  • UTE (energy provider)
  • Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining (local ministry)
  • Smart Green Uruguay (installers)

The Solution

  • Tried and tested FIMER  technology that saves time and resources
  • Extensive training and real-time support for installers
  • 10% of total power demanded is solar generated during the summertime

  • Enough energy generated to power 1408 days of TV and power up to 40 computers per year and up to 40 computers per year

  • Up to 4 tonnes carbon emissions offset already
    Offset the equivalent of up to 1ha of pine forest

Harnessing success

FIMER was a key partner for the first installation, providing collaborative support to all organizations involved. IAU and UTE were impressed with the reliability and durability of FIMER’s solar inverters in such harsh conditions. Coupled with FIMER’s training, testing and support, the installation was delivered successfully.

The experience was so positive that IAU, UTE and the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining (MIEM) turned to FIMER for their second solar installation at Base Artigas.

This time, there were new relationships to cultivate Smart Green Uruguay (SGU), an installer who had never worked with FIMER before, won UTE’s tender to deliver the project.

IAU, UTE, MIEM and SGU counted on FIMER technology for success, including the tried-and-tested UNO-DM solar inverter as well as plan monitoring and control solutions. Due to the harsh conditions, there was no margin for error and it was important for all teams to work collaboratively.

The Challenge

The challenge was to build on the previous installation’s learning. Due to harsh winds, the first solar panels had been mounted on building walls to minimize wind interference. However, the positioning wasn’t optimal for best performance. This time, the solar panels had to be ground-mounted, achieving a better position to capture sunlight.

The solar plant also had to be closer to the largest electrical loads of the base to ensure effective electrical distribution. Due to Antarctica’s severe winter conditions a summer installation was planned, giving the installers the benefit of longer sunlight hours.

However, delays meant that the installation proceeded close to the start of Antartica’s winter season, with as little as three sunlight hours a day.

To add to this, the installation had to be completed within three days.

Project used
  • 1x solar inverter UNO-DM-6.0-TL
  • 24 x ground-mounted solar panels JINKO 270W 12 modules per string
  • 1x MCB 40A 2-pole + 1x RCD 40A 300mA 2-pole 12 modules per string Aurora Vision Plant Management platform Connection to FIMER’s
  • Aurora Vision Plant Management platform via embedded Wi-Fi interface
The installation used:
  • 1x FIMER solar inverter UNO-DM-6.0-TL (6kW at 230VAC 1ph)
  • Connection to FIMER’s Aurora Vision Plant Management portal via the inverter’s embedded Wi-Fi interface
  • 1x MCB 40A 2-pole + 1x RCD 40A 300mA 2-pole
  • 24x ground-mounted solar panels JINKO 270W (12 modules per string)
FIMER’s plug and play solar inverter meant that installation was massively simplified.

It was important for everyone to be well-prepared, so FIMER pre-configured the equipment by testing it in a laboratory, recreating the adverse Antarctic onditions. And if anything didn’t go to plan, the local expertise of FIMER in Uruguay provided peace of mind that the new equipment could be sourced and shipped to Antarctica quickly.

Besides testing, FIMER provided extensive, high quality training, enabling the installers, who hadn’t previously worked with FIMER equipment, to face the complex challenges ahead. FIMER provided invaluable real-time support to SGU throughout the installation, even calling them in Antarctica to provide advice.

The Aurora Vision portal* provided huge benefit to the project as well as the ability to remotely monitor the performance of the installation. The teams involved could compare the new solar plant’s performance to the existing panels and gather invaluable insight and data to inform future expansions. IAU also made the portal available online to view real-time results

The Results
  • 10% of total power demanded is solar generated during the summertime
  • Enough energy generated to power 1408 days of TV and power up to 40 computers per year and up to 40 computers per year
  • Up to 4 tonnes carbon emissions offset already
    Offset the equivalent of up to 1ha of pine forest
The work was successfully completed, bringing IAU one step closer to its ambitious eco-friendly targets

As a result, during sunlight hours in summertime, up to 10 percent of the instant power demanded by Artigas Base can be provided by the optimized solar plant. It has already offset 0.8 metric tons of carbon emissions in the first two months since its installation – reducing Artigas’ impact on the delicate Antarctic ecosystem, and creating operational (OPEX) savings that will be put back into critical scientific research. Smart Green Uruguay received great exposure from the project. And, their experience with FIMER was so positive that they have chosen FIMER as partners on numerous new projects.

Future-proofing the frozen continent
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