The IK Foundation (ikfoundation.org), an independent non-governmental organisation which carries out fieldwork, expeditions and research projects, has developed the next generation of scientific eco-designed autonomous Field Stations which, unattended night and day, all year-round will observe a selected landscape and its life. At 78 degrees North, Prins Karls Forland is a remote and uninhabited Arctic island off the west coast of Spitsbergen, Svalbard. This rarely visited area which has so far been subject to only limited research activities was chosen for the installation of the temporary micro FIELD STATION | NATURAE OBSERVATIO | MARTIN‘S EYE.
The aim was to build a portable Field Station minimising the environmental impact where it was placed leaving no imprint after it has been removed. One of the major challenges was the power supply for the extremely remote off-grid location in the Arctic Ocean. A limited amount of power was generated from 2 x 20 Watt solar panels, but this was only a backup. Clearly, the solution needed to be environmentally friendly. Also, it needed to operate reliably at low temperatures to survive the Arctic winter. Extended run times were important, as the remote location and protected status precludes regular visits to charge or change batteries.
“No negative environmental impact”
EFOY Pro fuel cells are an environmentally friendly power supply which enable us to carry out entirely automated, unattended, all year round observations of the local biosphere. Such long-term and detailed observations can give us an increased understanding in a large number of scientific disciplines, without affecting the environment.
Lars Hansen, Head of The IK Foundation
The Field Station itself was constructed to be easy to transport, erect and dismantle after the intended period of use. It was designed as a pipe construction with four legs where two aluminium boxes are placed, which include necessary digital equipment and energy production in the form of fuel cells for all instruments of the station. EFOY value-added Partner Fuel Cell Systems Ltd (UK) designed a solution utilising three EFOY Pro 2400 Duo fuel cells contained in a specially adapted aluminium box enclosure and providing 300 Watts. It is linked to a second enclosure containing six MT60 fuel tanks. A remote monitoring system supplied by Fuel Cell Systems Ltd relays live data on the system, giving feedback on the condition of the fuel cells and highlighting any potential issues.
The EFOY Pro solution provides enough fuel to last one year without any visit for refuelling required. Although the Field Station has been visited by polar bears during the summer, the station has stayed largely intact and is still able to provide a massive amount of unique and valuable data. For the research world, new opportunities have been opened up thanks to the possibility of projects and observations now being carried out remotely. The IK Foundation and its network of specialists including EFOY partner Fuel Cell Systems Ltd will continue to develop and establish new Field Stations as well as linked research projects around the world.