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Wind Turbines Set to Break Records in Antarctica

A British company is helping provide the power for the first zero emissions research station in the Antarctic. Proven Energy, the world's leading small wind turbine maker, is supplying eight of its 6kW turbines for Belgium's Princess Elisabeth Antarctic research station.

Building the station will take place during the International Polar Federation's International Polar Year (2007-08) and will enable up to 20 scientists from Belgium and other nations to carry out research on climate change.

Using wind turbines marks a major change in Antarctic stations, which have previously relied on diesel generators causing pollution in the ecologically fragile area. Diesel sets were deployed because wind turbines were thought not to be sturdy enough for the harsh environment. Proven's turbines though have already broken a number of world records when it comes to durability and are well suited to the conditions they will have to work in at the South Pole.

Previous installations have seen Proven break world records in working during ice storms in Slovenia, sand storms in Saudi Arabia and typhoons and hurricanes in Japan. They have also produced electricity in the highest wind speeds - 150mph in the Shetland Islands - a useful pedigree given Antarctica's average 53mph wind speeds in winter with gusts up to 200mph.

"We are confident of success as our Proven 6s are the most thoroughly tested wind turbines in the world," said Gordon Proven, chairman of Proven Energy. "These turbines are already operating in the most hostile climates around the world, shattering all records. With the installations in Antarctica, we expect to set yet more records."

The eight wind turbines have already left Proven's factory. One will be installed on a mountain ridge at the base site near the South Pole in January, when the system will be tested. The other seven will be installed later in the year after the end of Antarctica's winter.

Once installed, they will have to endure some of the most severe climate conditions on Earth, including temperatures down to -60˚C while still providing 230V electricity for the station's heating, computers, lights and scientific instruments. The electricity generated is expected to be the highest output of any wind power system in the world.

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