Wind-Powered ‘Polar Rover’ Roams Antarctica

The company is called Urban Green Energy, but its vertical-axis wind turbines apparently can ply their trade well away from the realm of concrete, steel and human habitation. One has been spinning amid penguins on Antarctica, powering a research vehicle over the vast expanse of snow and ice.

UGE said its smallest turbine, the HoYi! unit that measures 1.2 meters tall and is rated at 200 watts, has been the exclusive power source for the “Polar Rover” operating out of a Chinese research station.

urban green energy polar rover

image via Urban Green Energy

In an email to EarthTechling, UGE CEO Nick Blitterswyk said the VAWT ended up atop the little four-wheeled vehicle after the Beijing Aeronautics and Astronautics University came calling. Apparently, robotics engineers there saw a wind turbine as a good way to keep the rover moving through not only sub-zero temperatures, but also what was described as “polar winds, geomagnetic interference, cosmic rays and other extreme environmental conditions.”

“The launch of this prototype is a milestone for implementation of intelligent robots at China’s unmanned research station in Antarctica,” Polar Rover Project Manager Wang Tianmao, a professor of Robotic Research at the university, said in a statement from UGE.

Urban Green Energy Polar Rover

image via Urban Green Energy

According to Urban Green Energy, “the Polar Rover has an automated driving system, capable of ice and snow terrain identification and assessment, satellite navigation, and autopiloting; it is also equipped with atmospheric sensors, a snow sampler, and geography and geology analyzers.”

And if you think the Polar Rover has just been moseying around near the station, think again. UGE says the wind-powered vehicle “has already traveled an amazing 2,500km in Antarctica as it researches the continent and the effects global warming is having on it.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

1 Comment

  • Reply March 12, 2013


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