Solar power—is there anything it can’t do? British scientists have found a new use for solar technology with the Sahara Forest Project, a proposed plan to combine greenhouses that use seawater to grow crops with solar power installations.
The greenhouse-solar power combination could potentially provide food, fresh water and energy to deserts.
According to the project’s designers, the technology works by having greenhouses use solar farms to power seawater evaporators. Cool air is pumped through the greenhouses, reducing the temperature by about 15 C compared to outside.
Evaporators are placed in the greenhouses to condense water vapor, which is used to water crops and clean the solar mirrors. The project’s designers believe that virtually any vegetable can be produced using this technique.
The potential cost of the Sahara Forest Project is relatively low—about £65m for 20 hectares of greenhouse combined with a 10 MW concentrated solar power installation— and countries across the Middle East have expressed interest in hosting demonstrations of the technology.
Of course, deserts can also produce lush vegetation using permaculture farming practices that are much cheaper to implement. But if countries are willing to invest in the Sahara Forest Project, more power to them—literally.
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