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First wind powered polar base opens in Antartica

The first wind powered polar base, the Princess Elisabeth Station in Antartica, was officially inaugurated on Sunday.

The Princess Elisabeth Station, which includes eight wind turbines has to withstand temperatures of -60 degrees Celsius and winds of over 90 m/s

The station is the only polar base operating entirely on renewable energies. It marks a major change as most stations rely on diesel generators because no wind turbines were thought to be robust enough for such extreme conditions.

The turbines will endure very severe weather conditions. They will be operating in average winds of 53 mph and winter gusts of over 200mph, while still providing 230V electricity for the stations heating, computers, lights and scientific instruments.

Proven Energy, a Scottish based small wind turbine manufacturer, supplied the 6kW wind turbines. The turbines are designed to work in extreme environments. Previous installations have weathered ice storms in Slovenia and typhoons in Japan.

Princess Elisabeth will combine eco-friendly construction materials, clean and efficient energy use, optimisation of the station's energy consumption and waste management techniques. These techniques aim to reduce the station's ecological footprint on the pristine environment of Antarctica, following the principles set forth by the Antarctic Treaty.

In addition to the turbines, both solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) will be used on the building itself. The water supply for the station will use solar thermal panels to melt the snow thereby limiting the use of electrical energy to pump water.

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