Check out this city of the future. Masdar (meaning ‘the source’) is a futuristic city which has already started construction in Abu Dhabi, and the first phase is open. It is a completely planned city in the middle of the desert, just outside the city gates. The company responsible for this gem in the desert is the Future Energy Company, run by the government of Abu Dhabi.
Originally, it was planned that the city would rely entirely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, with a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology. This hasn’t been achieved fully. Bugs in the system are still being smoothed out, but there is hope in the future that it can return to a zero-carbon model.
While the idea is golden, the price tag is rather uncomfortable. Check out this bill: the city of Masdar has cost US$22 billion to build. But it seems it will be money well spent. The city, if it gets fully completed, will cover 6 square kilometres and will be home to 45,000 to 50,000 people. It will also be a place for 1,500 businesses, primarily commercial and manufacturing facilities specialising in environmentally friendly products. And as well as the full-time residents, more than 60,000 workers are expected to commute to the city daily. And that’s not to mention curious tourists who will come in their throngs, inquisitive about the green status.
The city will also be home to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), which will be assisted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The caliber of geeks in this town will ensure that the genepool game in Abu Dhabi will be strong.
Because Masdar will be the home of the most cutting-edge thinking in cleantech, the residents won’t need to drive. Cars are banned in Masdar, so citizens will have to learn how to skip to and from work on the light rail system. With no cars to kill geeks, the air will be fresher and the noise from horns beeping will be an antiquated memory of the 20-teens. And for those that want a more personal transport experience, driverless pods are the way forward.
As for temperature control in an unmerciful desert, there are a lot of good ideas here too. The city is surrounded by a perimeter wall which keeps out hot desert winds. It also has narrow streets with lots of shade that will funnel cool breezes across the city.
As for powering up, it is more of a case of powering down. Masdar uses a variety of renewable power resources. A solar power plant, built by the German firm Conergy, supplied power for construction activity. This was followed by a larger facility, and additional photovoltaic modules will be placed on rooftops to provide supplemental solar energy. Wind farms will be established outside the city’s perimeter, and the city intends to utilise geothermal power as well. In addition, Masdar plans to host the world’s largest hydrogen power plant. This is a very exciting new technology. It will be a great model for renewable technologies across the world.
As for water in a desert, it has to be carefully managed. A solar-powered desalination plant provides the city’s water needs, which will be 60% lower than similarly sized communities. Approximately 80% of the water used is recycled and waste water is reused for crop irrigation and other purposes. And you don’t need to wash your car anyway because you don’t have one!
Masdar plans to reduce its waste to nothing. Biological waste is used to create nutrient-rich fertiliser. Other hard-to-recycle stuff can be burned in an additional power station. Industrial waste, such as plastics and metals, will be recycled or used for other purposes.
The first stage of Masdar City is up and running! Now, the world waits too see if it can live up to its original promise of being a zero-carbon city. If you are stopping over in Abu Dhabi, but sure to check it out.