The Gulf region is showing exactly why they are quickly becoming the top destination for renewable and clean technology in the world. A recent pilot project in Qatar aimed at growing cucumbers using seawater and solar power is just one of the more unique endeavors, and hopefully won’t have any Islamic leaders crying foul. According to a recent report published by Renewable Energy Magazine, the Sahara Forest Project, built by a Norwegian firm of the same name, is a facility that will grow the vegetable using the renewable energy has been recently inspected by government officials and has officially launched and should be painting the desert green with the crispy vegetable in no time. Cucumber is a staple in the Middle East diet.
Cucumbers grown at the facility.
The report said that Qatari officials and delegates who were in Doha for climate change talks were optimistic about the ability to grow vegetables in the arid sand of the Gulf country.
According to the Sahara Forest Project’s website, the new cucumeber “factory” has some 10,000 square meters located within the Measaieed Industrial City and hopes to create profitable and unique ways of harnessing green technology “for large scale reversal of desertificaion thereby encouraging the use of deserts, seawater and carbon dioxide to produce food, freshwater and energy.”
The first fully operational Sahara Forest Project Pilot Plant is built in Qatar in cooperation with the leading fertilizer companies Yara and Qafco.
Qatar is one of the leaders in the Gulf green technology boom, with wind power and solar energy prospects growing with new projects almost monthly at home and abroad.
With this project, it should help be a litmus test for the ability to use seawater and alternative energy to grow vegetables. If successful, it could prove to be a model for other regional countries to follow, especially those where desertification and lack of agricultural land is limiting food production.
Here’s how it works, according to the report:
It makes use of concentrated solar power (CSP), but with a difference. In place of the water-thirsty cooling towers of a typical CSP plant, the Sahara Forest Project facility uses a saltwater cooling system and greenhouse roofs to dissipate waste heat.
The heat from the CSP mirrors drives a desalination system which produces distilled water for plants grown in the greenhouse and outside in the desert. Waste heat is used to warm the greenhouses in the winter and to regenerate the dessicant used for dehumidifying the air. The role of the Qatar facility is primarily to evaluate the use of CSP in the country in order to provide vital data for other projects.