Additional information to the AHEAD project and answers to questions of the SDWG participants

While preparing to present the AHEAD project proposal at the SDWG working group meeting on June 8, 2020, the MIPT received some questions from the SDWG members to get additional information about the AHEAD project.

Questions and answers from the SDWG participants:

1.      What specific kinds of projects and technologies does this project envision producing? Is the focus entirely on carbon-free technologies, or wider in scope? At least for the project’s initial operating phase, we believe focusing on the former, more narrow topic would be useful and facilitate deliverables.

On the one hand, the project mainly focuses on the modern and future energy technologies and our main objective is to work with carbon-free and green technologies. In this case, the matter is not only getting wind- and sun- energy, but to maximize energy storage for offline operation without wind and low insolation (for 1-2-3 weeks).
We are going to test the most environmentally friendly, efficient, and easy-to-use technologies, that will lead us to implement them widely in remote off-grid settlements in the Arctic already in this decade and with minimal governmental support. The “Snowflake” project is the “Special Arctic platform” for testing and implementing developed solutions into the Arctic as: wind, sun, electrolysis and hydrogen storage, fuel cells, chemical and thermal batteries, flow batteries etc. On the station there would be no limit to test new eco-solutions (! only if they are environmentally friendly and have a potential to be widespread in the Arctic). This is the main focus of the project and our work at the first and further steps of implementation.
Also, we would like to highlight that the infrastructure of the station might be also used for testing and implementing other technologies like environmentally friendly life support systems (water supply, waste disposal, ventilation, etc.), medicine, constructing, smart home and smart village systems, agricultural-, bio-, social-, educational and other needed technologies for the sustainable Arctic development.

2.      How is access to the center limited; is it either to those participating in projects at the center, or to Arctic Council-linked entities, groups, or persons? And would observer states and/or non-Arctic Council have access, or restricted access to both the center and/or participating in projects in the center?

We are inviting and welcoming all arctic countries to join the project in various forms: delegating their specialists to work at the station, testing and demonstrating the equipment provided by companies and institutions, participation in the target-date funds toward building and fitting the station’s facility, and organizing events at the station. We are also interested to invite observer states to participate in special projects at the station, for example, experience and knowledge exchange as well as testing together equipment or other solutions for Arctic settlements.  
Therefore, we do not limit the access to the Station. Moreover, since the opening our team would specifically work with foreign partners in order to invite and involve them to the “Snowflake” station to carry out special work as well as forums/seminars, international camps or educational projects. There might be some restriction to access to the technological equipment or its related information, in case partners (company or institution) request these restrictions in accordance with signed agreements.

3.      The projects’ proposed costs are much higher than traditional SDWG projects. Will Russia and Norway manage upkeep and continued operational cost of the center after the conclusion of the project? Are any other states or entities contributing funding? The cost breakdown appears a little unclear to us. Is it correct that as co-leads, Russia and Norway be responsible for all costs except events/workshops to be organized at AHEAD facility by other states? Or will participants or contributors bear any other costs?

Yes, the projects’ proposed costs are much higher that traditional ones, because the “Snowflake” station is an infrastructural project. Today Norway contributes only the costs related to Norwegian partners in developing the station. Firstly, these are specialists’ delegations, organizing events and so on. Russia is responsible for all costs of construction and operation of the station. However, any time Norway and other countries might actively take part in construction and/or operational processes as well as providing for common use/testing different equipment and some funds. We believe that constantly this process will gain momentum.
We believe that OPEX will be minimized (we don't need diesel) and we suppose that further station maintenance would be covered by paid accommodation and work of Russian and international guests. Due to unnecessary to return the investments for the station construction and fairly inexpensive logistics (regular flights to Salekhard and our airport shuttles to the station) we suppose that the price of accommodation and work at the station would not be high. We want the price to be affordable for mass research and educational tourism.

4.      The timeline as proposed appears ambitious - is construction to be completed in just one year?

Such projects are implementing only in ambitious timeline!
For sure and we agree that the timeline is the main challenge, but in 2019 we have already started the station design, construction process should start in 2021 and be finished in 2022. Probably, there will be construction phases, surely we will finish the 1st phase of the “Snowflake” complex in 2022 in order to start operations.

5.      We are interested in greater detail and specifics on Germany’s / Roman Zaides’s envisioned contribution to the project.

The German partners have a long partnership with the MIPT (initiator of the “Snowflake”) and they are interested in inviting and involving German companies and institutions to the project.

6.      We are glad to see the extensive attention given to Arctic indigenous persons as part of this project (e.g., the ‘Land of Hope’ section of the proposal)

Yes, you are right and if we did not feel the energy of the people who is living in the Land of Hope, we would not decide to initiate this project. Significantly important for us to build the station near the indigenous settlement, thus all ideas and goals of the “Snowflake” are connected to the sustainable development of the Arctic villages.