Polar Power Alaska: Page 4 of 7

Beginner

Inside this Article

The Systems at Ivotuk
The PV array & wind generator at the camp.
Ivotuk base camp
The Ivotuk base camp with fresh snow on the mountains.
Checking the array angle
The author demonstrates that the PV tilt angle is to spec.
Balance of system
The Proven and the OutBack controllers regulate wind and PV charging.
The battery bank
The battery bank is made up of 24 industrial-quality, 2-volt cells.
Tower raising
The 155-pound Proven wind turbine and its 20-foot tower were raised into place with a rope-and-pulley system.
Tower up
The author standing proudly in front of the installed turbine.
The Systems at Ivotuk
Ivotuk base camp
Checking the array angle
Balance of system
The battery bank
Tower raising
Tower up

an array mount pointing true south at approximately a 70-degree tilt. This angle gives up some production in the summer, but takes good advantage of the sun angles during the transitional seasons. It also gets a bit more reflected light from the snow-covered surface (8 months of the year), and sheds snow more readily than a flatter angle. The panels themselves are mounted 2 feet (0.6 m) above the ground, which allows snow to slide off without accumulating at the base of the panels.

The Deployment

Field deployments at Ivotuk have to be very carefully planned. The closest hardware store is hundreds of miles away, and to bring in an overlooked item would cost about US$2,000 for the flight. Many players were involved, and no one tends to have much wiggle room in their schedule. My colleague Jay Burnside and I worked through seven flight plans before we finally had one that everyone could live with.

In addition to my duties in relation to the technical aspects of the job, I also served as the camp manager for the length of the deployment. This meant that I was responsible for feeding, sheltering, and seeing to the welfare of all of the personnel on site. This is not an insignificant task in and of itself. Remember that this is the Alaskan bush. It is unforgiving wilderness all around. The nearest native village of Umiat is more than 90 miles (145 km) away.

In a field project like this, a lot of things can go wrong, with no immediate help to be had. The hundreds of caribou migrating through presented no immediately apparent hazard, but the several grizzly bears roaming the area definitely did. In addition to my normal tools, I added a 12-gauge pump shotgun and a comprehensive medical kit. Fortunately, on this deployment, all I needed was one Band-Aid.

Despite the significant natural hazards, the assembly and erection of the wind generator tower was my greatest concern, and I knew I would need some help. Brian “Buckwheat” Buckley is a veteran of the Antarctic and Arctic programs, and a very competent and experienced carpenter. Buck agreed to come in with me on what would prove to be some fairly tough camping conditions. We arrived on site on August 22 and immediately set to work putting up our camp. The weather took a nosedive by day two, with snow, sleet, and rain—sometimes all in the same hour.

We had hoped to use Manta Ray earth anchors for guying the wind turbine tower. Upon driving them into the gravel pad to the full depth of the cable, we found that we could lever them back out again to within a couple of feet of the surface. This did not give me a very satisfied feeling about the strength of the anchor. Fortunately, I experienced these doubts before leaving Fairbanks. While preparing for the deployment in town, I had Buck build up some 2- by 2-foot (0.6 x 0.6 m) plywood deadmen, just in case the Mantas didn’t work out. The downside of using this

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