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Abu Dhabi is building a green metropolis in the desert

The Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is a role model for a sustainable future

The Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is a role model for a sustainable future

Abu Dhabi has started an attempt to create the world’s first car-free, zero-carbon-dioxide-emissions, zero-waste ‘Masdar’ city.

The city is the centerpiece of the Masdar Initiative, a $15 billion investment by the government of Abu Dhabi.

Masdar City: Role Model for a Sustainable Future

The new Abu Dhabi city, will run almost entirely on energy from the sun and will use just 20 percent as much power as a conventional city of similar size.

  • Vacuum tubes under the city will transport garbage to a central location, where it will be sorted, and as much as possible will be recycled or used for compost
  • Trash that can’t be recycled will be converted to energy through a gasification process and the leftovers incorporated into building materials.
  • Sewage will be treated and some of it processed into a dry renewable fuel for generating electricity.
  • Water will be recycled to save the energy costs of desalination
  • Concrete columns will lift the city seven meters off the ground, creating space underneath for a network of automated electric transports that will replace cars
  • Self moving PRT vehicles Abu Dhabi

    Self moving PRT vehicles for Abu Dhabi. Photo 2getthere.eu

    The transportation system will include a light-rail line linking the development to downtown Abu Dhabi and the airport, as well as a personal rapid-transit (PRT) system with stations throughout the city. The PRT, a system of automated electric vehicles, will connect people to the rail line or deliver them to parking garages outside the city.

Data for better modeling

Masdar City, itself developed with the help of extensive modeling, will be wired from the beginning to collect data that could prove valuable for developing better eco-models. That information could make future zero-emissions cities cheaper and easier to build.

Masdar headquarters is designed to generate more renewable electricity than it consumes; it would be the first large-scale, multi-use building to do so.

Abu Dhabi Living Lab

The Masdar Initiative is part of an ambitious plan to transform a resource-based economy–the third-largest exporter of oil in the world–into one based on knowledge and expertise. A living Lab in which new technologies will be developed and tested in daily lives.

The name Masdar comes from the Arabic word for ‘source’, and the plan is to make Abu Dhabi the Silicon Valley of alternative energy: a source of talent, patents, and startups in the very industry that could one day challenge the supremacy of oil.

Clean Green Energy

A small fraction of the energy that’s still needed to run the city will come from waste-based fuel and perhaps geothermal power. The rest will come from the sun–but not all of it through expensive photovoltaics, which convert sunlight into electricity. Much cheaper devices that concentrate heat from the sun will heat water and run a type of air conditioner called an absorption chiller. (This is the same kind of technology that is used now in propane-­powered refrigerators.)

Masdar City

In many ways, the development of Abu Dhabi over the last few decades has reflected a frenetic effort to catch up with the developed world. Now, because of projects such as Masdar City, the emirate has a chance to race ahead. But in terms of urban development, it appears to be very much at a crossroads.

In a few years, while the citizens of Masdar City will be pinching kilowatt-hours and using waterless urinals

go-carts will be screaming around a new track at a Ferrari theme park nearby

kids will be shrieking as they plummet down water slides at a new water park

massive air conditioners will be roaring as they cool a new 700-store super mall

It’s all part of a 2,500-hectare development that will dwarf the 640-hectare Masdar City.

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