South Pole Energy Challenge: Father and son’s expedition powered by renewable energy

Father and son team, Robert and Barney Swan, are just over 100miles from completing an expedition to the South Pole relying solely on green energy, in the first expedition of its kind.

With solar panels tacked to their sledges and a biofuel made from wood chips to keep them warm, the father and son duo began their eight week-expedition in November, and hope their 600-mile adventure will show renewable energy can work in extreme conditions and prove a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

British explorer, Robert Swan, was the first person to walk the South and North Poles. After seeing first hand the effects of climate change, he set up the environmental conservation organisation, 2041, in 1984 to protect Antarctica by the promotion of recycling, renewable energy and sustainability to combat the effects of climate change.

Over their expedition, known as the South Pole Energy Challenge (SPEC), the father and son team will demonstrate and showcase cutting edge technologies robust enough to work in one of the harshest environments on earth.

Climate change is the father and son team’s main motivation for the mission. Barney Swan said: “My generation has too much information and we’re tired of the inconvenient truth but this expedition is about the convenient solutions that can address the current climate change challenges.

“Our expedition is a small example of how we can all make choices to help us transition to a cleaner energy future. For people at home who are wondering what they can do, just making small changes like eating from sustainable sources, using less plastic cups and bags, and using solar-powered appliances to charge your phone will all help.”

Robert and Barney Swans’ 5,000 daily calorie intake comes from sustainable and energy-giving foods, such as grains and almond bars. This helps them to overcome temperatures of -40°C and the risks of frostbite, altitude sickness and snow blindness.

The explorers must use a NASA-designed ice melter simply to provide themselves with enough water for drinking and cooking. Perpetual sunlight charges the solar panels on their sledges, which powers the NASA-designed ice melter.

Robert Swan’s organisation 2041 aims to build personal leadership skills among people who choose to embrace the challenge of sustaining all forms of life – in their families, communities, organisations and the planet.

Using the SPEC expedition as a platform for engagement, Robert and Barney Swan are working with sponsors to broadcast outreach campaigns to help drive change in the way we use energy.

Robert and Barney Swan said: “Through SPEC we aim to give companies, schools, and individuals the tools to make viable changes in the way they understand and use energy.”

Measurable solutions that 2041 have identified include installing solar, wind, and/or geothermal infrastructure in home or business; modifying lifestyle/diet to reduce waste; supporting alternative transport technologies: hydrogen, electric, or hybrid; demanding green energy from utilities; investing in clean energy; engaging in local and national energy policy; and advancing carbon offsetting, reduction, and cleanup technologies.

Robert and Barney Swan hope to complete their journey later this month.

The SPEC is one of four listed expeditions that the father and son team will be embarking on as part of their mission clean up 326 million tonnes of CO2 before the year 2025.


Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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