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Renewable energy powers South Pole expedition from Robert and Barney Swan.

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by: Hans van der Broek
Renewable energy powers South Pole expedition from Robert and Barney Swan.

A dramatic demonstration of sustainable technology starts in Antarctica on November 15 as father and son team Robert and Barney Swan set out on the first attempt to walk to the South Pole using only renewable energy sources. The eight-week expedition, called the South Pole Energy Challenge, will use solar panels, wind power, and an advanced biofuel to provide the team with all their energy needs in the most inhospitable place on Earth.
Robert and Barney Swan walking in the snow with two red sleges behind them
There have been any number of demonstrations of the renewable energy in recent years from boats to airplanes, but Antarctica is in a completely different league. The icebound continent is famous as one of the most hostile environments on Earth. The combination of subzero temperatures with high altitudes and weather than can go from clear skies to whiteout blizzards without warning not only pose the threat of crippling frostbite and hypothermia, but of a constant toll on the human body including respiratory difficulties and a depressed immune system that can be just as fatal if the proper precautions aren't taken.

In this context, relying on renewable energy sources on a walk to the South Pole isn't just a demonstration of what is possible, it's demonstration of faith that the sources are up to the job in a situation where failure could result in the risk of freezing or dying of dehydration.

The SPEC expedition is made up of Robert Swan oBE, who was the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles, his son Barney, who will be expedition leader, expedition guide Martin Barnett, and documentary filmmaker Kyle O'Donoghue. For their 600 miles (965 km) journey, the equipment on their man-hauled sledges will include wind technology to power their electronics, solar panels to melt snow for drinking water, and an unidentified advanced biofuel made from wood chips that was developed especially by the Shell Technology Centre in Bangalore, India for cooking and heating.

"There is no silver bullet solution to managing the challenges of climate change," says the senior Swab, "and we must meet this challenge through collaboration amongst all players in society – governments, entrepreneurs and industry – to provide a mixture of cleaner energy solutions as we work towards a low carbon future.
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"Increasing the use of renewable sources of energy is essential to reducing CO₂ emissions. By putting these clean energies to the test in Antarctica, the Earth's harshest wilderness, Barney and I want to prove that they can be developed for use anywhere, and therefore play a crucial part in helping the planet transition to a lower-carbon future."

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World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
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