'Zero Emissions' Antarctic Station Researchers Move In, Part I

Princess Elisabeth Antarctic station photo

photo International Polar Foundation

The first 14 members of the international team that will live in the Antarctic at Utsteinen for a couple of months this "summer" moved in to their new home, the spanking new Princess Elisabeth station, which was built to be as self-sufficient, energy-efficient and low-waste as possible. The Belgian-sponsored station's 700square meters of internal space aren't finished, so this year's first expedition members initially spread across the floors in sleepover style, snug from -20°C temperatures outside.

TreeHugger has followed the building of the Antarctic station with interest, as the poles are experiencing warming at an accelerated rate compared to other parts of the globe. The Antarctic is also 'protected' by treaty from being claimed by any one nation, and is thus a giant climate change research area. On the downside, different missions to the Antarctic have left lots of their rusting junk to be preserved in ice for...well, for as long as the ice lasts! Australians have tried fossil-fuel reduction at an Antarctic station, and the Princess Elisabeth station is supposed to be a big leap forward.

Skidoos at Princess Elisabeth photo

Station vehicles still need fossil fuels, so zero emissions are calculated only for the building. Photo International Polar Foundation

As part of the International Polar Year 2007-2008, the Princess Elisabeth station implemented a number of systems and features unprecedented for an Antarctic station, where energy supply is critical for keeping occupants not only cozy but also safe from the relatively hazardous weather conditions.

Tubines, solar panels, bioreactors
To operate Princess Elisabeth on renewable energy required a lot of planning and built-in redundancy of systems. The station itself is aiming for zero emissions, will have on-site wind turbines, many solar panels (though with the large amount of solar rays that hit the station, cooling becomes as important as heating) two bioreactors and two filtration units. There is also an emergency diesel generator back-up and outside the station's buildings researchers are reliant on some diesel for snow mobiles and snow movers (they hope to eventually run these with a fuel cell).

The last months in Belgium have been busy for station engineers testing energy management, ventilation, and waste water treatment systems before they are installed at Utsteinen. Special materials were used to build the station, which actually was first assembled and displayed in Belgium, then deconstructed and reassembled at Utsteinen. TOMORROW: How systems are working and what Princess Elisabeth researchers are studying. Via: International Polar Foundation
Addendum: This year's BELARE expedition and the design and construction of the Princess Elisabeth station are financed by the International Polar Foundation and its public and private sponsors.
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