Energy for isolated scientific stations

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The present report figure out how can cooperation will serve every RI on one of their common technical issue: “Energy for isolated scientific stations”.

Figure 1 - Weather station in Antarctica. Credit IGE, Laurent Arnaud.

Aims of this report:[edit]

  • This report intends to provide guidelines and technical advice on operational solutions to powered remote isolated scientific measurement stations.
  • This report aims at helping technical staff to choose most suitable solutions to bring energy to their autonomous sites with appropriate systems, to gain time.
  • This report is not an ISO/AFNOR standard reviewing regarding energy efficiency on one or another power system. Evaluations have been made on-site: to ensure practical relevance of the document regarding Research Infrastructures (RIs) needs.

Structure of the document:[edit]

This report is composed of five stand-alone chapters:

Chapter A: A common knowledge on energy supplies for isolated stations. This chapter gives a quick overview of minimal useful knowledge on energy systems for isolated sites.

Chapter B: A catalogue of operational isolated stations. Thanks to the ENVRI+ RIs community within oceanography, biology, atmosphere, geology fields, this chapter gives examples of operational stations, their energy and data transmission. Contacts are provided for more required details.

Chapter C: Energy production systems evaluations. Regarding RIs needs and following the ENVRI+ survey, evaluations of the most used power systems are presented.

Chapter D: Energy storage systems evaluations. Regarding RIs needs and following the ENVRI+ survey, evaluations of the most used power storage systems (lead acid batteries) have been made.

Chapter E: Technical summary. Finally, all previous information has been summarized in technical data sheets for the direct on-site use. The data sheets are gathered in chapter E: Technical summary, ready to be printed.

Figure 2 - Example of the technical datasheets for on-site direct use. Refers to chapter D.

Last but not least: every comment or additional knowledge will be welcome for updates to come. ➔ The more we share, the better we are.


A. Common knowledge on energy for autonomous sites[edit]

I. General information on energy[edit]

Definition. The scientific definition of energy is: “the energy is the physical quantity that characterizes a system state change”. In others words: energy is the capacity to change the matter state. To move physical material from a place to another, to vaporize it, to make it move in a living body, to transform matter in heat, or to create light, etc…

Context and great challenge. Energy is everywhere, we need energy for everything. To build our house, to move our cars (burning an energy tank such as petroleum) to grow food (chemical energy coming from the ground, physical energy of the sun thanks to the photosynthesis), to warm rooms (thermal energy), to run our electrical devices (electrical energy), to make our muscles work (caloric energy). That is why energy is by now one of the great challenges humanity has to face. Worldwide individual energy consumption has grown significantly in the last century (Figure 3). With the growth of population, the total consumption of energy developed as shown at Figure 4. Moreover, 80% of this energy results from burning fossil fuels made with carbon: Oil, Coal and Gas. Leading to an additional source of atmospheric CO2, enhancing a global warming.

Figure 3 - Worldwide energy consumption average per person. Source: Jean Marc Jancovici, adaptation from Shilling et al. 1977, BP Statistical Review 2016, Smil 2016. Figure 4 - World energy consumption by sources and region. Credit: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014 and International Energy Agency (IEA).

Units. The international system unit for energy (SI) is Joule: “J”. There also are many other useful units to express the appropriate quantity of energy in special domains, Table 1.

Unit name Unit symbol Joule equivalent (J) Definition Use example
Joule J 1 Work done by a force of one Newton when its point of application moves through a distance of one meter in the direction of the force. Mechanic
Calorie Cal 4,1855 Heat quantity to increase the temperature of one kg of water per 1°C. Food, biology
British Thermal Unit BTU 1 054,50 Heat quantity to increase the temperature of one pound of water per 1°F. Natural Gas
Kilowatt.Hour kWh 3,6.106 Hourly consumption of energy by a 1000 W electric device. Electricity
TNT ton TNT ton 4,184.109 Energy resulted from the explosion of 1 ton of TNT. Civil work
Ton Equivalent Petroleum TEP 4,186.1010 Calorific energy of 1 ton of crude petroleum. Transportation
Electron Volt eV 1,602.10-19 Gain of kinetic energy from an accelerated electron, submitted to a voltage difference of 1 Volt. Physics

Differences between primary and final energy. We rarely consume a cup of diesel as a breakfast, nor do we inject methane. Engine (or human work) consumes “primary” energy (wood, petroleum, radioactive fuels, wind, sun, water kinetic energy, coal,…) to produce the services we need, such as food, transportation services, heat, electricity, etc. As the final consumers, we use this “final” energy.

The difference between final and primary energy is the “intra-system loss”. At the global average, electrical loss in France from a production system (nuclear power plant) to a final user (as an electrical heat) is about 70% in the whole system[1]. Most of the energy loss happens inside power plants as thermal dissipation and mechanic loss (e.g: loss of mechanic work) and approximately 10%[2] of the total loss comes from energy transportation (Joule effect).

ENVRIplus isolated scientific stations and energy. Far away from the world energy issues and global consumption, isolated scientific stations are low players in terms of consumption. Typically, that is equivalent to or less than a light bulb, 2 to 100 W. Still, without energy supply no measurements can be done. This is a critical issue for all scientific measurements and particularly for isolated sites, which are not connected to the national electrical networks. In this report, as a common and usual language abuse, we will use the term of “energy” to designate “electric energy”, as we will only talk about the electric one (and not about thermal energy or energy of transportation).


  1. Source: BP statistical review and International Energy Agency. Data from 2010
  2. Sources: RTE (French electricity transportation network, ERDF (electricity network distribution France).

Full document[edit]

The report can be downloaded here: File:180502-ENVRI Energy report final OG.pdf