Renewable Energy to Power New Antarctic Research Station

The International Polar Foundation (IPF) unveiled the final plans for Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Antarctic research station, to be built during the International Polar Year 2007-08 (IPY). The station will enable Belgium, and other nations participating in its science program, to carry on research on climate change and Antarctica’s key role as part of the global climate system. And fittingly, the structure will be powered almost entirely through a combination of renewable energy technologies including wind, solar thermal, and solar photovoltaic.

Alain Hubert, Chairman of the IPF, said the station will be Antarctica’s most sustainable research platform. The research will contribute to the international scientific effort scheduled for the IPY. “When we know already that we need to live more sustainably to avoid drastic climate change, we must certainly research sustainably in the Antarctic,” Hubert said. “The Princess Elisabeth station will represent international best practice in being entirely run on renewable energy and in completely recycling all waste. Belgium, one of the twelve original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, will not cause any damage to the pristine Antarctic environment.” Sitting on a stone ridgeline, facing into the strong and consistent Antarctic wind, the station will have a total of 60 kilowatts (kW) installed in small wind turbines. On the structure itself, the project will have a 7.5-kW solar photovoltaic array, along with 30 square meters of flat-plate solar thermal hot water heating. These collectors will be used for water melting and for hot water heating. Passive solar design is also incorporated. A lead acid battery backup system, along with a fueled battery backup system, will ensure continuous operation of all critical systems. Overall, the structure is expected to rely on renewable energy for 98 percent of its total energy needs. The station will be situated inland, near the Sor Rondane mountains in Dronning Maud Land, not far from where Belgium maintained the Roi Baudouin base for a decade following the last international polar year (1957-58). The station site (at 71 degrees South and 23 degrees East) is in the 1500-kilometer empty stretch between the Japanese Syowa station and the Russian Novolazarevskaya station. The Belgian Government, following its 2004 decision to take up the IPF’s proposal for a new base, announced on 19 May 2006 that it would provide Euro 3 million to the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) for the station’s management and research program in 2008 and 2009. The construction of the base is expected to cost around Euro 6.4 million [~US$8 million], of which Euro 2 million [~US$2.5 million] has already been committed by the Belgian Government, with the remainder to be found by the IPF through private sector sponsorship and public donations.
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