May 31, 2006

Belgium Plans First Renewable Energy Antarctic Base

BRUSSELS -- Belgium will build the first polar station powered solely by renewable sources of energy at a site in the Antarctic that will study climate change.

The base will be constructed from November 2007 to March 2008 at a cost of 6.4 million euros ($8.2 million), project organizer The International Polar Foundation (IPF) said when he unveiled the plan on Wednesday.

"It's the first ever station built which will use only renewable energy -- solar and wind," IPF President Alain Hubert told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The station, the Antarctic summer home to 20 people, including 12 to 16 scientists, will focus on studying climate change and will mark Belgium's return to the continent after an absence of over 30 years.

"Antarctica is the only place on earth where the link between carbon dioxide emissions and temperature rise has been discovered," Hubert, a scientist and explorer, said.

The station will open during International Polar Year, which extends over two years from March 2007 to March 2009, when scientific effort on the continent will accelerate, the IPF said.

Britain and Germany also have plans to rebuild their stations then, while France and Italy will convert a temporary base into a permanent one.