Renewable Energy Powers Research from Pole to Pole

Application: Rural Electrification
Location: Arctic and Antarctic
Year: Late 1990s to present day
Products: Various Morningstar charge controllers, SureSine inverter, Relay Driver, and meters
Partners include: Tracy Dahl, KiloVault, Sunwize Technologies, Polar Field Services

Tracy Dahl is passionate about developing sustainable solutions. When his mechanical expertise landed him a job as a snowmobile mechanic in the Antarctic in the mid-1990s, he saw an opportunity for renewable energy there as well.  

For the past two decades, Dahl has worked alongside researchers in the Arctic and Antarctic to lead the transition from diesel generation to renewable power from pole to pole. He’s done a variety of wind and solar projects including systems with a single solar panel, charge controller and battery; vehicles with DC and AC power; chalets at research stations; and complex projects like large autonomous power and communication systems with remote-control monitoring that run lidar, radar and other research equipment

No matter the application, Dahl says that Morningstar charge controllers are his go-to solution. In addition to their price point, they can withstand the difficult, condensing environments that often take out power electronics. He’s especially fond of the controllers’ maximum power point tracking (MPPT) capability.

“In a high-altitude, low-temperature environment with reflective snow cover, the MPPT  works incredibly well, providing about 20% to 25% more energy capture than PWM controllers,” he said. “The cold weather pushes the panel voltage way up, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you can turn it into amps through the MPPT. I have actually measured it out side by side and it’s astonishing how much better it works in these environments.”