Antarctica: First solar power plant for the Italian base

antartide, photovoltaic, renewable energy sources
Published on the platform: April 16, 2019
The first photovoltaic power plant of the Italian “Mario Zucchelli” base in Antarctica has been built, continuing the transition to 100% energy from renewable sources after the construction of a wind farm in the previous year.  The plant became operative during the 34th Summer Campaign of the National Antarctic Research Program (PNRA), funded with 23 million euro by the MIUR, implemented by ENEA for logistics and the CNR for planning and scientific coordination.
Developed by ENEA engineers and technicians, the plant underwent extremely strict tests for the harsh environmental conditions of the Antarctic site, where temperatures fall down to -40 ° C and the cold katabatic winds reach  200 km / h. The solar panels were installed on the roof of the main building, renovated completely to improve the thermal insulation of the Station.

During the expedition the solar power plant produced about 12 thousand kWh of electricity with a maximum power of 35 kW, with approximately 3700 liters of fossil fuel saved and 6 tons of CO2 less released in the environment. Over the whole next Antarctic expedition, beginning next November, the plant is estimated to produce 50,000 kWh, equal to 15% of the whole energy need of the Zucchelli Station.

“The plant, with a total power of 62.5 kWp [1], consists of 250 monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic modules with a unit power of 250 Wp [2], anchored by means of an ad hoc metal structure, , to the new covering of the main body that houses the laboratories and offices of the Station “, Francesco Pellegrino, technical coordinator of the Zucchelli Station, explained.

“The interest in this type of plant was born from the possibility of exploiting solar energy during the Antarctic summer without the need to use an electrochemical storage, with considerable simplifications in terms of management and maintenance”, Pellegrino said.

“Our next objective is increasing the power of the photovoltaic system and therefore the share of electricity produced by solar sources. The goal is a reduction of the annual fossil fuel consumption by at least 30-40%, with positive economic effects on supply, transport and storage and a considerable reduction of the  environmental impact on the Antarctic site “, Pellegrino concluded.

During the 2018-19 Italian expedition to Antarctica more than 50 scientific projects were carried out thanks to the participation of 212 researchers and technicians from institutions across Italy, including the Armed Forces.

Contact for requests: Francesco Pellegrino, ENEA – Antarctica Technical Unit,

Source: ENEA (

The Antarctic solar field
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