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Chinese Research Facility on Icelandic Farmland

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Chinese Research Facility on Icelandic Farmland

Aurora Observatory

A computer-generated image of the facility. Photo: Screenshot from Vísir.

A Chinese research facility is being constructed by the farm Kárhóll in South-Þingeyjarsýsla county, North Iceland, according to Vísir.

The Polar Research Institute of China plans to use the facility to research the northern lights, in cooperation with Icelandic research institutions.

The construction company SS-byggir from Akureyri is in charge of the construction of this 700 square meter (7,500 square feet) building for a non-profit organization called Aurora Observatory, established by the development agencies of Eyjafjörður and Þingeyjarsýslur regions. The company purchased the land for ISK 80 million (USD 653,000, EUR 590,000), and the cost of construction, to be financed with rent received from the Chinese Polar Research Institute, is estimated to exceed ISK 300 million (USD 2.4 million, EUR 2.2 million).

The idea for the project was born when Arctic cooperation between Chinese and Icelandic officials began in 2012. Chinese investment in an Icelandic rural community has, however, caused suspicion among many, who suspect the project includes something other than research on the northern lights.

Reinhard Reynisson, CEO of the Development Agency of Þingeyjarsýslur, claims the suspicion is unwarranted. He stated that Icelandic scientific organizations will cooperate with the Chinese, among them the Science Institute of the University of Iceland, the Icelandic Met Office and Akureyri University. The facility will furthermore be open to scientists from other countries. A guest reception in the building will be open to the public.

Reinhard believes the facility will create countless opportunities for international scientific cooperation, in addition to tourism opportunities in North Iceland with regard to the northern lights. The facility will, moreover, increase diversity in terms of employment in the region.

The building should be operational by the end of this year, although construction won’t be completed until next year.

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