Princess Elisabeth Antarctica: An Energy Station

Lauren Murphy
December 8, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017

Princess Elisabeth Antarctica

Fig. 1: Atlas of Antarctica. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Valuable research is being conducted on the continent of Antarctica. In February 2009, Belgium opened a zero emissions polar science station in Antarctica. [1] The Princess Elisabeth is an innovative energy station in an inhospitable polar continent. [1] The Princess Elisabeth station is completely energy-self-sufficient, and does not emit any carbon dioxide. [1] It is built in a 1,000,000 meter zone between Russian and Japanese stations. [1] The creation of the station was funded mostly by private funding. [2] In addition, it is powered completely by renewable energy sources. [2] Wind turbines and solar panels are used to completely power the station and are managed through the novel concept of a smart grid. [2] Powering the station is a large challenge, since fuel demand is high on stations. [2] This is due to the need of heat year round, fresh water, sewage management, and power for science equipment. [2]

The station is only inhabited during the summer, and is managed during the winter remotely through a communications link. [2] It is shaped like an octagon, and sits on stilts a few kilometers north of the Soer Rondane Mountains. [1] The station is located in Queen Maud Land (see Fig. 1), an area where little research has been conducted. [1]

Princess Elisabeth is expected to have a lifespan of 25 years and will conduct research in climatology, glaciology, and microbiology. [1] Its main focus is on analyzing nearby deep ice shelves. Scientists from all over the world, including Belgium, Japan, France, Britain, and the United States, are conducting research on site. [1]

The International Polar Foundation runs the base. [1] The conception of a zero emission building capable of standing up to the extreme conditions in the Antarctic goes to show that similar techniques can also be deployed in more temperate areas of the world. [1]

Inside the Station

The main building of the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica can hold 16 to 25 people. [3] There are approximately 36 solar thermal panels, 402 photovoltaic panels, and 9 wind turbines (6,000 W each). [3] The fresh water tank onsite can hold 1500 liters. [3] The station has a kitchen and living room, bedrooms, lab and office space, bathrooms, and technical areas. [3]

The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Exhibit

The Princess Elisabeth Station has recently caught the attention of the general public and has gained popularity in a special Belgian exhibit. The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica was featured in an exhibition called Inside the Station in 2013, which was apart of the EU-Belgian pavilion in Brussels. [4] This exhibit was an inside journey inside the station to show civilians everyday life and describe polar science in Antarctica. [4] It is especially engaging because it encourages an active experience rather than promoting civilians to passively observe the exhibit. [4] It attempts new sensory modalities and affords an affective relationship to the Antarctic. [4]

© Lauren Murphy. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Belgium Opens Antarctic Science Post," New York Times, 15 Feb 09.

[2] K. Dodds, A. D. Hemmings, P. Roberts, eds., Handbook on the Politics of Antarctica (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017).

[3] N. F. D. Amin, Princess Elisabeth Antarctica (Lannoo Publishers, 2013).

[4] D. W. H. Walton, ed., Antarctica: Global Science From a Frozen Continent (Cambridge University Press, 2013).