Environment

Ambitious project to green the desert to begin in Jordan

Conceptual illustration of the Sahara Forest Project that will produce fresh water, electricity and food in the desert (Image: Sahara Forest Project Foundation / Screenergy)
Conceptual illustration of the Sahara Forest Project that will produce fresh water, electricity and food in the desert (Image: Sahara Forest Project Foundation / Screenergy)
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Conceptual illustration of the Sahara Forest Project that will produce fresh water, electricity and food in the desert (Image: Sahara Forest Project Foundation / Screenergy)
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Conceptual illustration of the Sahara Forest Project that will produce fresh water, electricity and food in the desert (Image: Sahara Forest Project Foundation / Screenergy)

An ambitious project that aims to turn arid desert land into a green oasis took a step closer to becoming reality last week when an agreement was signed on the rights to develop a pilot system in Jordan. The Sahara Forest Project’s (SFP) first facility will be located on a 2,000,000 square meter (21,527,821 sq. ft.) plot of land in Aqaba, a coastal town in the south of Jordan where it will be a test bed for the use of a combination of technologies designed to enable the production of fresh water, food and renewable energy in hot, arid regions.

The partners behind the Sahara Forest Project are Bill Watts of Max Fordham Consulting Engineers, Seawater Greenhouse, Exploration Architecture and the Bellona Foundation, an international environmental NGO based in Norway, who have been working on the idea since 2009.

In 2009, after first studies showed that the concept was feasible and economically viable, the project was presented internationally at the December 2009 UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where it was well received. In June, 2010, Jordan’s King Abdullah II saw a project presentation during a visit to Norway and was impressed enough to say he was ready to facilitate its implementation in Jordan.

The main pillars of the project are saltwater greenhouses, concentrated solar energy, and cultivation of traditional crops along with energy crops such as algae, which all come together in one location to solve a whole range of environmental problems.

The SFP would use saltwater greenhouses to grow crops throughout the year in desert locations without any supply of freshwater. Seawater is evaporated from grilles at the front of the greenhouse to create cool humid conditions inside. A proportion of the evaporated seawater is then condensed as freshwater that is used to irrigate the crops, re-vegetate surrounding dry areas and provide water to the concentrated solar power plant.

The solar power plant is in turn used to generate electricity to power the pumps to transport the seawater from the Red Sea to the saltwater greenhouse and the fans to circulate the humid air within the greenhouse. The greenhouse will also be used to cultivate algae to absorb CO2 and provide biomass to be used for energy and food production.

The project partners say that, in essence, when these different technologies are put to use in a combined approach, the processes will start “feeding” each other and provide not only environmental, but also commercial benefits.

The project envisions three separate stages of development. In depth studies will be carried out throughout 2011, construction of a Demonstration Center is slated to start in 2012, and commercial-scale development is set to start in 2015.

Via Treehugger

26 comments
Michael Mantion
LoL clearly a con. If project is a money pit, that will never meet commercial production. Congrats Jordan for persuading the Gullible, kind hearted, idots into spending money on something that will never achieve any meaningful goal. If this project was actually economically viable a for PROFIT organization would be doing it.
Adrien
they are going to have to figure out how to deal with all the salt and crap that comes out of the seawater when you evaporate it. I can see that clogging everything up VERY quickly. Also it doesn\'t mention how the water vapour is \"condensed\". This is non-trivial when ambient temp is like 50C. Could use a heat pump to transfer the heat from the vapour into some relatively cool part of the hot water cycle in the solar generation plant.
Nader Habaibeh
sounds good, looking forward to it
Jacob William
This looks really fantastic!
mrhuckfin
Just release copious amounts of CO² in the local area and it\'ll green up on it\'s own. :-)
Paul Anthony
So what happens to all the dissolved solids that are left behind?
Daniel Lafontaine
Or, they could use the desalination systems that trunzwater makes to get fresh water from any type of water including seawater and it is powered by solar panels.
PrometheusGoneWild.com
While I understand Mr. Manitons complaints, the science of terraforming has to start somewhere..... Jordan is starting from the unfortunate place of having 3000 years of environmental damage. The system may be a money pit, but if they work out how to change semi-desert into cultivatable lands ( with plants that absorb the sunlight and produce food, which would bring down the ambient temperature) they would be in effect creating an economy. I know Israel has been very big in plating orange trees. Or any other tree that will shade and produce food. My main concern with this project is they they do not know what they are doing. Not that they are incompetent, but the bulk of farming science has been focused on producing as many bushels of grain per acre. This project is about rescuing land and keeping it functional over the long haul and not giving in to short term profit.
christopher
Neat! They should bio-engineer the plants to tolerate the salt, instead of wasting all that effort trying to get rid of it. The tides are probably good enough to power pumps to deliver the seawater too - no need for solar and the massive waste & pollution all that infrastructure creates. Nothing is a \"money pit\". People need jobs. That\'s how our world works.
nehopsa
Great project. As Dennis says, this project can be money pit but terraforming has to start somewhere... If they rescue the land and make it habitable / cultivable they achieve a lot of value. Must not be necessarily capitalist money slave driving value...at least not at first. Not everything needs to be one dimensional profit geared enterprise. Over exploitation has had produced the desert in the first place. Good luck.
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