In the Sahara, the Sun and Seawater Are Re-vegetating the Desert
In the Sahara, where there is an abundance of salt, sand, sunlight, and CO2, there is a whole set of game-changing opportunities for revitalization and re-vegetation, including the growth of high-quality food, fresh water, and clean energy. While the idea of lush green “desert farms” might seem unconventional in this part of the world, vegetation is being revived and restored in the hot, arid desert – thanks to The Sahara Forest Project.
This green initiative, spearheaded by a team of engineers, architects, biologists, environmentalists, and businesses, has created energy- and water-efficient salt water-cooled greenhouses. In order to set up this saltwater infrastructure, a low-lying area of desert that is close to the ocean is required. Using solar and saltwater evaporation technologies and desert revegetation technologies, these salt water-cooled greenhouses produce crops, biofuels, electricity, and purified water for drinking and irrigation. It can also “safely manage brine and harvest useful compounds from the resulting salt, and grow biomass for energy purposes without competing with food cultivation.” Currently, the first fully-operational Sahara Forest Project Pilot Plant is located in Qatar.
This prosperous environment offers optimal growing conditions that allow for year-round cultivation of high-quality vegetables – regardless of being in the midst of a dry desert. According to Magnus Borgen, the Director of Institutional Relations and Communications at the Sahara Forest Project, “By using seawater to provide evaporative cooling and humidification, the crops’ water requirements are minimized and yields maximized with a minimal carbon footprint.”
With an abundance of sun, the Sahara is ideal to use solar power for electricity and heat generation. By utilizing the sun’s energy, heat is produced and used to make steam. This in turn operates a steam turbine, and as a result, drives a generator to produce electricity. Additional innovative technologies that are used include a reverse osmosis desalination system, computer-controlled indoor climate and irrigation control, biological pest control, outdoor crops for land restoration, and agrivoltaics.
According to the Sahara Forest Project, a single SFP-facility with 50 MW of concentrated solar power and 50 ha of seawater greenhouses would annually produce 34,000 tons of vegetables, employ over 800 people, export 155 GWh of electricity, and sequester more than 8,250 tons of CO2.
get unmissable tech in your inbox...