Inside (literally) wind turbines meant to work at the South Pole—and Mars

It started with Mars. In 1993, NASA gave a Small Business Innovation Research grant to Vermont-based Northern Power Systems (NPS) to build a very southern wind turbine—as in, a turbine that could reliably work at the South Pole.

NASA was interested in a wind turbine that could potentially provide power for human exploration of Mars, and the National Science Foundation was interested in some electricity at its South Pole station that didn’t require flying in fuel. NPS set about tackling both challenges in one fell swoop, designing a low-maintenance turbine using components that could survive the deathly Antarctic (or Martian) cold. A few years later, a 3 kilowatt turbine was spinning away at the South Pole.