The opening of the Sahara Forest Project’s first pilot plant in Qatar is set to coincide with the United Nations Climate Conference (COP18) in Doha, Qatar, which kicks off on November 26, 2012, and operations are expected to be fully underway in December.
By combining a seawater greenhouse with concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, SFP aims to provide fresh water, food and renewable energy in hot, arid regions. Initially presented to delegates of the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen, the scheme has received wide acclaim, and is expected to spread to Jordan, Egypt and even southern Spain if successful.
“The Sahara Forest Project is a holistic approach for creation of local jobs, food, water, and energy, utilizing relatively simple solutions mimicking design and principles from nature,” Frederic Hauge, founder and president of the Norwegian environmental nonprofit the Bellona Foundation, told National Geographic.
Located in Mesaieed Industrial City, the $5.3 million pilot project has been realized on a one hectare site near the Gulf, and has been built in collaboration with fertilizer companies Yara International and Qafco.
The closed loop system involves using CSP to pump seawater to the greenhouse, where it will go through a special system to create the necessary humidity required for optimal crop growth.
Evaporated seawater will be condensed to create fresh water, which will be used to irrigate plants, while seawater that exits the greenhouse will be fed back to the CSP system to keep it cool. Additional water will be used in evaporator hedges to irrigate outdoor crops. And whatever seawater is left over will be collected in salt ponds, from where sodium chloride, gypsum, and calcium carbonate will be extracted.
Olav Kjorven, assistant secretary-general of the U.N. Development Program has called it “a gold standard,” while Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani believes the project could help improve food security in the Middle East, CNN reports.
As food insecurity in the Middle East grows, particularly in the Gulf countries that have been buying up tracts of land in Africa to compensate for their own region’s infertility, SFP has the potential to produce zero-carbon food, clean energy and revegetate certain parts of the desert.
The Qatar pilot project is expected to run for one to two years.
All images via SFP