An Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) delegation will leave tomorrow for France to attend the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP).

COMNAP was set up in 1988 as a way for national agencies responsible for logistical support to Antarctic science programs, to get together to discuss a range of common issues such as logistics, shipping, power generation, energy efficiency and medicine.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic Dr Sharman Stone said that the annual meeting, to be held this year in Brest, was a forum where Antarctic Treaty parties exchanged information, views and ideas on the practicalities of working in Antarctica and where efficiencies might be achieved through sharing resources and ideas.

“It is important that the work all Treaty nations undertake in Antarctica is supported by the best possible methods in practical matters such as transporting equipment and personnel, cargo handling, energy use and medical care,” Dr Stone said.

“Of particular interest this year is our wind energy project at Mawson station.

“Last March we commissioned two wind turbines that our modelling tells us will, in time, provide up to 80 per cent of the power needed to run the station over the course of a year,” she said.

“All indications so far are that this can be achieved.

“This means that our reliance on diesel fuel will diminish significantly so that we can reduce the amount of fuel we take there and store on site.

“Australia is the first country in Antarctica to undertake a major renewable energy project of this type and our Treaty partners are very interested to get an update on its success.”

En route to COMNAP, some of the delegation will visit the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge.

AAD Director, Dr Tony Press, who will lead the delegation said that BAS colleagues were keen to learn more of the wind energy project and our air transport project.

Last month, at the Antarctic Consultative Treaty Meeting in Madrid, Australia signed a contract with European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) in Spain to supply two CASA 212–400 aircraft to support Australia’s science program in Antarctica.

“These aircraft will be fitted with extra external and internal fuel tanks allowing us to cover a greater distance, eliminating the need to store fuel at depots on the ground,” said Dr Press.

“The CASA is a more modern aircraft than we have used before, capable of carrying considerably greater loads. This, combined with its extended range will allow more flexibility with our science program and put Australia at the front line of Antarctic aviation,” he said.