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OPP 06-001 November 2005

Construction highlights, 2005-2006

      1. McMurdo power plant replacement.  Having gone past their design life, the diesel engines and the switchgear in the power plant are being replaced.  To provide redundancy should a building be lost, two of the six new diesel generators will go in the water plant building next door, and one of the three reverse-osmosis water desalination units will go in the powerhouse building.  The engines’ waste heat—in both the liquid coolant and the exhaust—will be captured to heat McMurdo buildings.  Thermal efficiency in the new power plant is expected to rise from the current 70 percent to about 90 percent.  Increased use of renewable energy is planned: while solar power for McMurdo is not practical, installation of a wind turbine that can withstand McMurdo’s cold and its fierce winter winds is being investigated; a midterm goal is a wind turbine that can generate a third of McMurdo’s peak electrical requirement.

      2. McMurdo gasoline tanks.  Three new 250,000-gallon gasoline storage tanks with secondary containment have been erected. During the 2006-2007 austral summer, a new vehicle refueling facility will be built, on a more environmentally appropriate site than now used.  The old tanks will be taken out of service and removed.

      3. South Pole Modernization Project.  Major construction and renovation are under way to replace most of the 30-year-old South Pole Station’s central facilities, which have exceeded their design life and cannot meet projected science demands.  Construction to date has included a new fuel storage facility, a new garage and shop, a new electric power plant, the kitchen and dining room, some of the living facilities, station services, medical facilities, science labs, emergency power plant, store/post office, food-growth chamber, and computer lab.  In addition, to further building construction this season, the station’s old communication center will be relocated from the Dome to the Elevated Station.  The 2005-2006 austral summer represents a major project milestone with conditional occupancy and transition of all related station operations into the new Elevated Station.  The 2005-2006 summer operating season will be 120 days. The modernization is scheduled for formal dedication in January 2007.

      4. Palmer Station improvements.  An upgrade, lasting several years, of the two major buildings at Palmer Station has been completed, increasing the effectiveness of science support and living facilities.  A ground station installed in 2002 has extended the station’s Internet communications to 24 hours per day.  Replacement of, or major repair to, the station’s pier is being studied.

      5. McMurdo Station Satellite Communications Upgrade. The Black Island Telecommunications Facility, which provides McMurdo Station with its primary satellite communications service, will be upgraded to support a doubling of McMurdo's satellite capacity from 1.5 Mb/s to 3 Mb/s by February 2006.

      6. National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Site Survey.  A field team will investigate site location requirements for the construction of a NPOESS receptor ground station at McMurdo as apart of a global network for recovering weather and environmental sensor data in near real time from the upcoming new fleet of US weather satellites due for launch at the end of the decade.