- Title: ANTARCTICA: Zero emission Polar research station opens
- Date: 16th February 2009
- Summary: UTSTEINEN, EAST ANTARCTICA (FEBRUARY 15, 2009) (REUTERS) AERIAL OF ANTARCTIC LANDSCAPE SHADOW OF AEROPLANE ON ICE BELOW LANDSCAPE FROM AEROPLANE WINDOW VARIOUS OF INTERNATIONAL POLAR FOUNDATION FLAGS FLYING ZERO EMISSIONS RESEARCH STATION PRINCESS ELISABETH ANTARCTICA FLAG FLYING VARIOUS OF RESEARCHERS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WALKING
- Embargoed: 3rd March 2009 12:00
- Location: Antarctica
- Country: Antarctica
- Topics: Nature / Environment,Science / Technology
- Reuters ID: LVA5D7ODF1VSNK8PKKMKKN5HYPAN
- Story Text: The world's first carbon free polar research station was officially opened in Antarctica on Sunday (February 15).
Global warming stoked by harmful carbon emissions has raised fears of catastrophic natural disasters, shifting the spotlight to cleaner energy alternatives as people move to reverse the effects of fossil fuel dependence.
But sceptics remain unconvinced that wind, solar and other non-polluting energy sources are sustainable and economically viable methods for today's industrialised society.
However, pioneers of the Princess Elisabeth station believe their base provides the proof that clean energy can be widely used in temperate regions if it can overcome the rigours of the coldest place on earth. The average temperature at Princess Elisabeth is -14 degrees Celsius.
"The (zero emissions) concept is to use only the wind and the sun to power the whole station," Alain Hubert, the station's project director and chairman of the International Polar Foundation said.
"The station is running with a combination of wind and solar energy which recharges batteries as well and it allows us to get the full power we need for all science, technical work that we have to do here during the winter," Hubert told Reuters at an inauguration ceremony attended by funders and government officials sipping frozen champagne.
The project, commissioned by the Belgian government, cost 23 million euros thus far, with two thirds of the funding raised from companies such as Belgian multi-national Umicore, car maker Volkswagen and GDF Suez.
Thomas Leysen, chairman of Umicore, said it made good business sense for the private sector to be involved in sustainable projects and not only to pursue profits at the expense of the environment.
Constructed over two years, the steel-encased station bristles with a combination of space age technology and natural processes to optimise energy efficiency. Micro-organisms and decomposition enable scientists to re-use dirty shower and toilet water up to five times before discarding it down a crevasse.
Wind turbines atop the Utsteinen mountain ridge and solar panels on the bug-like, three-storey building ensure the base has power and hot water, while an intelligent central unit controls the station's electrical systems.
Even the geometry and placement of windows play a role in conserving energy.
Scientists monitoring global warming predict higher temperatures could hasten melting at Antarctica, the world's largest repository of fresh water, raising sea levels and altering shorelines.
This will have dire consequences for some 146 million people living in low-lying coastal regions less than one metre above current sea levels, researchers said.
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