{Inside (literally) wind turbines meant to work at the South Pole—and Mars | Ars Technica}

Title{Inside (literally) wind turbines meant to work at the South Pole—and Mars | Ars Technica}
Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsJohnson S
Keywordswind microgrid generator renewable electricity
AbstractBARRE, Vermont—It started with Mars. In 1993, NASA gave a Small Business Innovation Research grant to Vermont-based Northern Power Systems (NPS) to build a very southern wind turbine—as in, a turbine that could reliably work at the South Pole. NASA was interested in a wind turbine that could potentially provide power for human exploration of Mars, and the National Science Foundation was interested in some electricity at its South Pole station that didn't require flying in fuel. NPS set about tackling both challenges in one fell swoop, designing a low-maintenance turbine using components that could survive the deathly Antarctic (or Martian) cold. A few years later, a 3 kilowatt turbine was spinning away at the South Pole. Northern eventually scaled up that design to a 100 kilowatt turbine that could help power a small community. The company found interested customers in remote Alaskan towns that produced most of their power using diesel generators and, like the folks in Antarctica, needed something reliable in a harsh climate. Unlike the massive multi-megawatt wind turbines that utilities buy in bunches to set up in wind farm arrays, NPS mostly sells single turbines to individuals, businesses, or communities that want to produce some electricity for themselves. It's a category of energy production known as "distributed wind," and Northern is doing it with a slightly different kind of turbine—luckily, Northern was kind enough to let us stick our heads inside one recently to see for ourselves.