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Work underway to create the world’s first Arctic station powered by hydrogen and renewables

By Olga Gertcyk
20 December 2021

The $27-million Snezhinka (Snowflake) is seen as a future international science hub for biotech, robotic and AI-driven projects.

The scientific team behind the project aims to make it an intentional research platform, with particular focus on applied technologies in renewable and hydrogen energy. Picture: MIPT Russia

The ambitious project, driven by the team of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) is scheduled to launch in 2024 at the Yamal peninsula, the heart of Russia’s gas production. The station, described as the International Space Station on earth, resembles a snowflake - thus the name Snezhinka - with seven large transparent domes connected by passageways. 

Snezhinka will be built close to a large lake in the windy Jade Valley between the mountain ranges Rai-Iz and Dinosaur some 30 kilometres away from the village of Kharp. Driving to the station on an all-terrain vehicle from the airport of Salekhard, the administrative centre for the area, will take two hours. 

The domes with everything necessary for living like residential units, gym, conference hall, labs, maintenance rooms will be able to host 80 people at a time: 60 visitors and 20 personnel.

Russian scientists aim to use it year-round by combining wind power, solar panels and hydrogen, generated by electrolysis, which will be essential during the long Polar Night - when it is dark for weeks.

Work underway to create the world’s first Arctic scientific station powered by hydrogen and renewables 


Work underway to create the world’s first Arctic scientific station powered by hydrogen and renewables 


Work underway to create the world’s first Arctic scientific station powered by hydrogen and renewables 


Work underway to create the world’s first Arctic scientific station powered by hydrogen and renewables 


Work underway to create the world’s first Arctic scientific station powered by hydrogen and renewables 
The ambitious project, driven by the team of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) is scheduled to launch in 2024 at the Yamal peninsula, the heart of Russia’s gas production. Pictures: MIPT Russia


This is the first attempt to build a fully autonomous scientific station supplied by green energy, said Yury Vasiliev, the executive director of the Institute of Arctic Technologies at MIPT. 

‘There is not a single facility in the world similar to the Snowflake. The closest to us is the Belgian Antarctic station Princess Elisabeth, running on small wind turbines and solar panels. They don't have hydrogen there, although work with hydrogen storage is planned, according to some open sources. Another very important nuance: all Antarctic stations are active for only three or four months, during the polar day. The Snowflake will be a year-round Arctic facility’, Yuri Vasiliev said in the TEKFACE interview.  

The scientific team behind the project aims to make it an intentional research platform, with particular focus on applied technologies in renewable and hydrogen energy. Other projects will include geomagnetic and astronomical observatories, an environment-monitoring station, and a testing facility for new technical solutions in permafrost.

An emergency diesel power station will be designed as a backup power source, so likely the launch will have to be made with the help of diesel until the station will switch to green energy, Yuri Vailiev said.

Work underway to create the world’s first Arctic scientific station powered by hydrogen and renewables 


Work underway to create the world’s first Arctic scientific station powered by hydrogen and renewables 

The $27-million Snezhinka is seen as a future international hub for biotech, robotic and AI-driven projects. Picture: MIPT Russia


Another autonomous hydrogen and renewables station will be built in Murmansk region - and a similar project is planned in the United Arab Emirates.

Russian scientists have recently signed an agreement with Khalifa University of Science and Technology and the Emirati company MKC for Power Solutions L.L.C. (part of the holding of the MKC Group of Companies) to jointly develop effective technologies for the production, storage and use of hydrogen in energy systems, as well as the construction of a unique joint laboratory operating in a fully autonomous mode on hydrogen renewable energy sources. 

The Snezhinka project is backed up by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry for the Development of Far East and Arctic, Arctic Council, and The Bellona Foundation. 

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