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Power pack for the boondocks

Geoscience measuring networks have gaps, for where there is no electricity, no data can be collected. Many remote regions are still white spots on the data landscape. A new energy system will soon remedy the problem.

Geoscience measuring networks have gaps, for where there is no electricity, no data can be collected. Many remote regions are still white spots on the data landscape. A new energy system will soon remedy the problem. Weather forecasts, disaster warnings, traffic reports – no-one today is willing to go without up-to-the-minute information. Residents want to find out how high a flood will rise, scientists track the development of earthquakes, and investors call for wind data from the site of a projected wind farm. All of these data can only be determined if a close-meshed network of automatically operating measuring stations is in place. But the network is patchy, for in many places there is no power to operate the equipment. In places where no power cables have been laid, the measuring stations have to operate self-sufficiently. At present, the necessary electricity usually comes from solar cells, but these are not always able to meet the energy requirements. Especially in winter, when the modules are covered with snow and ice and additional energy is needed to heat the sensors, the sun’s energy is not sufficient. Sometimes it is simply too expensive to generate electricity using photovoltaics alone. The cooperative project “EVEREST”, led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg with the participation of 14 research and business partners from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, promises to redress the situation. The innovative system combines solar cells and batteries with other energy sources such as a fuel cell, a wind turbine, and a Stirling or thermoelectric generator. An innovative energy management system developed by ISE in co-operation with the Göttingen-based electronics company Pairan links the various units into a network, switches them on as required, and transmits all the operating data to the control center. The “EVEREST Box” is available as a mini-version with an output of approximately 50 watt and as a maxi-version with up to 1,000 watt. Its modular construction enables it to be used for a variety of applications. The box can be used to supply power to wind measuring stations in Alpine regions endangered by avalanches, earthquake observatories in regions with cold, damp, murky weather, and environmental measuring stations in remote locations. The sturdy power pack can serve not only geoscience stations, but also telecommunications, transportation and security facilities. The EVEREST boxes will have to pass their first endurance test this winter on the Black Forest mountain of Schauinsland. Further endurance tests are planned for next year in the Alps, in a river valley and on a marine platform.

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