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Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Station
Ms. Nighat Amin, Program Administrator of the Princess Elisabeth Station project

International Polar Foundation
Rue des Deux Gares, Tweestationsstraat 120 A
1070 Brussels
Tel : + 32 2 543 06 98
Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Station; © International Polar Foundation
Princess Elisabeth Station
© International Polar Foundation
Wind turbines - 6 kWp each; Copyright © 2009 by
Wind turbines - 6 kWp each
© International Polar Foundation
System Solar icon Wind turbine icon Solar and Wind.
Location North Ridge of Utsteinen nunatak in Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica (71° 57' S, 23° 20' E).
  Distance to coast: 190 km
  Distance to nearest base:  500 km
  Research opportunities:  Sør Rondane Mountains, glaciers, coast and the Antarctic Plateau
Description With a commission from the Belgian government, the Antarctic Research Station Princess Elisabeth was designed, built and financed, with the help of public and private sponsors, by the International Polar Foundation. Designed with an emphasis on sustainable technologies and minimization of its environmental impact, Princess Elisabeth Station will rely solely on renewable energy from wind and solar supply. The different subsystems (wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors) function separately or combined depending on the demands and circumstances. An intelligent and robust control system of industrial type monitors the energy demand and production and steers the different processes. To anticipate power peaks, the control system use "switch-off" or "power on" sequences for non-critical items (battery chargers, freezers, water heating). 

  • Summer station opened from November to February (austral summer season) but conceived to be a year-round station.
  • Maximum capacity: 48 scientists during the austral summer season and 12 during the austral winter season (energy supply is provided solely by wind turbines).
  • Expected lifespan: 25 years minimum
  • Total usable space inside the station: 495 m²
  • Outside scientific facilities: 105 m²
  • Technical area: +/- 1000 m²

"Zero Emission"

Princess Elisabeth will be the first "zero emission" facility in Antarctica. It is the only polar research station to be conceived and built to operate entirely on renewable energies. The Princess Elisabeth Station will achieve high standards for functionality, safety and minimum environmental impact.

Installed Power Overview

Total yearly production: +/- 140 MWh/year
Total surface area of the station and garage: +/- 1500 m²
Average annual consumption per m²: 51 kWh/m²/year

  • Wind energy:  9 wind turbines producing 6 kWp each – total output: 54 kWp; annual production: +/- 90 MWh/year (65% of total production)
  • Solar electric energy:  109.5 m² of photovoltaic solar panels on the outside of the station and 270 m² on the rocks next to the station – total output: 52.26 kWp (up to 800 W/m of solar radiation); annual production: +/- 45.7 MWh/year (32% of total production)
  • Solar thermal energy:  18 m² of thermal solar panels located on the station's roof generating heat for the kitchen, bathroom and water treatment unit and 6 m2 located on top of the garages providing heat to melt the snow (source of drinking water).
  • Solar passive energy:  The station will be heated by what is known as passive solar gain, a technique optimized by the building's layout and window arrangement. Passive solar gain has proved to be so efficient that no other heating system is needed to heat the station during the summer months.
  • Emergency power supply:  2 diesel generators (for use in emergency situations) – total output: 44 kWh

Water Treatment Unit

100% of used water is recycled, 75% of which is used a second time
  • Water treatment in several stages: anaerobic reactor, filtration, aerobic bio-reactor, active carbon, chlorination unit, and finally a regeneration system using UV treatment for conservation of drinking water inside the tank.

  • After treatment, used water will be disposed of in a rimaye (crevice between ice and a rock)

A Passive Building

The station’s skin, insulation, shape, orientation and window disposition allow a comfortable ambient temperature to be maintained inside the building with little energy input. Sophisticated ventilation and air circulation systems are an integral part of temperature management. The Princess Elisabeth station was conceived to take full advantage of currently available passive building techniques.

Each of the 160 C-shaped side panels composing the walls of the station are made up of 8 consecutive layers, totalling 60 cm in thickness. The insulation layer itself, lightweight expanded polystyrene, is 40 cm thick.

Intelligent Systems

The electrical systems of the station were designed to be as energy-efficient as possible given the requirements of operating an Antarctic research station and the demands of working in the harsh polar environment. All station systems are integrated and piloted by an intelligent central unit. This configuration will ensure that working and living conditions inside the station are optimised with minimal resource consumption.

Energy management of the station will consist of maintaining the equilibrium of the entire network between the energy produced and the energy used in the station. Efficient use of the energy produced by the solar photovoltaic panels and the wind turbines is monitored and controlled using a smart grid system. This centralised control of interdependent systems also allows for remote monitoring during the winter.

In order to store energy and help regulate energy usage and stabilise the electrical grid, four double, valve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) OpZv 1000 battery packs will be used in the station. Each battery pack will have 24 battery unit elements with an electric potential of approximately 2 V each.

Energy Produced and Energy Consumed

  • Energy production (installed): 100 kW 
  • Energy consumption (in total, by addition of all installed electrical appliances and equipment): 400 kW
On average though, the energy production is able to cope with 10 % of the installed consumers. This is because the Station's electrical equipment and devices are not all used at the same time but also because the energy production does not reach 100 kW at all times either.

A specifically designed smart grid using a high-performance PLC controller has thus been installed inside the Princess Elisabeth Station to manage the energy consumers in balance with the Station's energy production by means of intelligent prioritizing.

Whereas a conventional mini-grid can feed 3-times more installed consumers than the average energy production can support, the smart grid used at the Princess Elisabeth Station takes this one step further: it is able to work 10-times more installed consumers than the Station's average energy production.


Ms. Nighat Amin, Program Administrator of the Princess Elisabeth Station project
International Polar Foundation
Rue des Deux Gares, Tweestationsstraat 120 A
1070 Brussels
Tel : + 32 2 543 06 98
IPF Website : http://www.polarfoundation.org
Princess Elisabeth Station Official Website: http://www.antarcticstation.org