Wind energy is being harnessed everywhere, even Antarctica. The Belgian research station on the continent, named Princess Elisabeth and opened in February by the International Polar Foundation, is powered primarily by eight small wind turbines that can withstand the extreme arctic conditions. Average winds are 53 mph, and winter gusts can top 200 mph. Proven Energy in Scotland supplied the turbines. The design has also weathered ice storms in Slovenia and typhoons in Japan. Such remote stations typically use diesel generators, but Princess Elisabeth is also outfitted with photovoltaic cells to help the turbines provide electricity for lights, computers and scientific instruments, as well as solar-thermal panels to melt snow for water.
This article was originally published with the title "Inspirations" in SA Special Editions 19, 2s, 10 (June 2009)