27 Oct, 2012 |
Sahara Forest Project is creating an oasis in Qatar's desert
Pilot scheme to grow vegetables and produce water in challenging environment

As delegates, observers and members of the press convene in Doha for the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference 2012 - COP18/CMP8, visitors will have the chance to tour a cutting-edge pilot project that will create vegetables in the desert while producing clean water and green electricity.

The Sahara Forest Project will reveal its multi-faceted Qatar plant that will grow cucumbers while producing other useful resources using a synergy of green technologies. The plant will have three basic components that are integrated and feeding one another to create a truly sustainable and possibly profitable complex. It will have a specialised saltwater greenhouse, a Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) facility and outside vegetation in a desert climate. The complex will theoretically produce marketable products, namely salt and electricity, which may one day allow future plants of similar design to be profitable.

“This pilot project could show how we can grow vegetables with less water or brackish water. I think this will be important not only to Qatar, but to the whole region and elsewhere where they have the same climate as Qatar. So, I have a lot of hope,” Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, the Qatar Prime Minister, said.

The plant will feature a CSP system that uses mirrors to concentrate the energy from the Sun to create high temperatures, which produce superheated steam that can power a conventional steam turbine. Both the new outside vegetation and the greenhouse structures will reduce dust and create cool zones for plant growth. Saltwater will be used to cool the CSP, increasing the power production. Freshwater from the greenhouse facilities can be used to clean the solar mirrors, and electricity from the CSP-facility can be used to run pumps and greenhouse facilities.

The first feasibility studies for the project took place in 2009, and the plan was featured at the COP15 in Copenhagen. Since then, it has received support from high-profile figures, including the prime ministers of Qatar and Norway, as well as the UN Special Envoy on Climate Change.

“The Sahara Forest Project appears to be a very interesting example of the more integrated and holistic kind of thinking that we will need a lot more of in the future to make our energy, water and industrial systems more sustainable,” Andris Piebalgs, the EU Energy Commissioner, said.

The Sahara Forest Project, which has applied to hold a side-event within the UN precinct in Doha during the Sessions, will offer tours to visitors who wish to see the facility while in Qatar.