It's been a long time in the making (see earlier stories about here and here), but the Belgium-based International Polar Foundation has finally taken the wraps off its climate change research station - the Princess Elisabeth - which will be the world's first zero-emissions polar science facility. The station, which will become home to 20 researchers, will be assembled on a ridge several miles north of the Soer Rondane Mountains.
Harnessing the power of both the wind and the sun, the prefabricated station will be completely energy self-sufficient when it is installed in the South Pole later this month. It will allow researchers to study the effects of climate change - specifically, on the deep ice shelves - without creating a large carbon footprint. To accomplish this, the builders first covered the station's roof with solar panels that will supply the brunt of the scientists' energy needs; the rest will be supplied by 8 6-kW wind turbines.The station's designers hope that the Princess Elisabeth will serve as a blueprint for future research stations in Antarctica. "Every ton of fuel you have to bring there costs a ton of money, and it is really a very difficult process. By building a zero emissions station ... you won't need that any more, so that's healthy," said Johan Berte, the lead designer.
It will join a network of stations already on the ground operated by scientists from Russia and Japan. So what challenge now remains? According to Berte, it's mostly logistics at this point: "The biggest challenge will be to unload on the Antarctic continent."
Via ::Associated Press: Solar-powered Antarctic climate base unveiled (news website)
See also: ::Lots of Wind in Antarctica; Now There Are Turbines, ::Polar Solar From Belgium For Antarctica
Image courtesy of Geert Vanden Wijngaert