Home » Blog » Travel » Trips » The South Pole Power Plant

The South Pole Power Plant

Our lives are governed by 600,000 gallons of AN8 jet fuel. That’s what literally everything at the station runs on, and without it, the south pole would be a cold, dead place.

AN8 Jet Fuel is used to power both machinery and equiptment operating on the ice, as well as a huge bank of generators which produce all of the electricity and heat for the station.

The South Pole Power Plant, powered by AN8 Jet Fuel, is buried under the snow in the utility arches. It’s connected to the main station via the utility corridors, and then the “Beer Can” utility lift/stairway. The plant makes both power and heat for the station – power via conventional alternators attached to the giant engines, and heat as waste, extracted from the engines with a heat exchanger, and then pumped to warm the main station via glycol tubes.

A few days ago I was given access to the power plant, and took a few pictures:

A view of the outside of the power plant, covered in snow. It’s directly under and behind the exhaust vents. Next to that are the entrances to the heavy equipment garage, supply and fuel arches.

2012-11-18 South Pole Power Plant

Checking into the power plant. Everybody signs in, and turns a tag. In the event of an emergency, responders can look at the board to see how many people are in there. Low tech, but effective.

2012-11-18 South Pole Power Plant

Hearing protection – very important.

2012-11-18 South Pole Power Plant

The power plant’s main space. Lined up are all of the generators.

2012-11-18 South Pole Power Plant

UT Charles Letourneau takes a reading on one of the huge primary engines that turn the generators that power the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, and surrounding facilities.

2012-11-18 UT Round With Chuckles - IMG_0691-1600-80

One of the massive engines. This turns an alternator, which is in the process of being swapped out.

Power Plant
2012-11-18 South Pole Power Plant

The main switchboard for the plant.

2012-11-18 South Pole Power Plant

Looking at power graphs. Each one of those spikes is somebody turning on something big – like moving a telescope.

2012-11-18 South Pole Power Plant

6 comments

  1. Aloha Jeffery,

    Harry Donenfeld here and I must admit, I am more than a bit jealous. Yeah, I know, I live on Maui, but I have been to the South Pole-Palmer Research Station and I LOVED it! You go and keep the Donenfeld name alive down there!! Not sure how, but we must be cousins somewhere. Just wanted to connect and say hello! Give a shout when you have the time.

    Harry Donenfeld – Grandson Harry Donenfeld, son of Irwin & Alice Donenfeld

  2. JEFFREY,
    My good man, how are you & it is good to see the plant again, when I was working for CATERPILLAR, i did the startup & commissioning,
    procedure to these prime power units in 2000/2001.
    do you remember me??

  3. Stephen Wooten says:

    Jeffery-
    I watched a science show recently where a segment featured your South Pole Research facility. I was so facinated by it all and curious how the station was powered and heated. Thanks so much for educating me on this amazing place. Your efforts and photos are so appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *