Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Agriculture

Sahara Forest Project Grows Green Jobs From Sand, Saltwater, & CO2

It’s been a while since we checked in on the Sahara Forest Project, but its first pilot facility just online went a few weeks ago so now is a good time to do some catching up. As for the goal of re-vegetating the Sahara desert, why stop there? With large chunks of the U.S. facing historic droughts, the project’s creative use of open space, saltwater and carbon dioxide to create new green jobs and re-vegetate desert lands sure sounds like a concept that could be useful over here, too.

Sahara Forest project aims to restore desert landsThe Sahara Forest Pilot Plant

The Sahara Forest Pilot Plant teams the project with Norway’s Yara ASA and Qatar’s Qafco. Yara is a nitrogen chemistry specialist and the world’s largest fertilizer supplier, and Qafco is a leader in urea and ammonia production, so you can see where this is going in terms of waste recovery and re-use.

Aside from the technology itself, one thing that stands out about the project is the speed with which it happened. Once all the agreements were signed, construction began early last year and was completed within a year.

That speed underscores the developers’ insistence that the project is not “rocket science.” Some of the technology is innovative but none of it could be called experimental in a high-risk way. The real breakthrough is in engineering new combinations and systems.

Beyond Sustainability, to Restorative Technology

The key to the whole project is bringing saltwater inland, where it can be desalinated using renewable energy and then put to use locally.

The pilot project went with concentrating solar power (CSP), which normally would require copious amounts of fresh water for cooling. That problem was resolved with a saltwater cooling system that piggybacks on the project’s greenhouse roofs, using them to dissipate heat.

The solar installation itself serves multiple purposes: desalinating seawater, warming the greenhouses in winter, and regenerating dehumidifying materials.

As the first CSP unit to go online in Qatar, the facility is also doing double duty as a research station leading to the development of larger operations. One of the things they’ll be looking at is locating the CSP’s many mirror units in re-vegetated areas (plants can boost CSP performance by reducing dust in the area).

Aside from greenhouse operations, the pilot plant also features outdoor plantings for animal fodder and bioenergy feedstock using desalinated seawater.

Using saltwater to cultivate halophytes (salt-loving plants) is a tricky business because of the potential damage to soil and groundwater, so the pilot facility is also testing low-cost methods for getting around those obstacles.

A commercial scale algae test facility rounds out the pilot plant, with the aim of producing nutriceuticals, biofuels, and fodder for animals and fish.

The Circular Economy and the Sahara Forest Project

The charitable organization Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been articulating a vision for a “circular economy” that is perfectly reflected in the Sahara Forest project.

As with the circular economy concept, Sahara Forest aims to create economic growth by putting materials and products that were formerly wasted together in new configurations, with the help of renewable energy.

To that end, Sahara Forest envisions the growth of green jobs in the desert:

“In addition to mitigating effects of climate change and contributing to conflict reduction in resource-scarce areas, the SFP facilities will provide employment for both high- and low-skilled workers. Programs and facilities for knowledge transfer and training will be established to ensure that long-term social and economic development opportunities are created.”


Sustainability Twofers, and Threefers

We’ve been calling this sort of thing a sustainability twofer, or for that matter a threefer (and why stop at three?), but whether you call it a circular economy, synergy, restorative growth or whatever, the basic idea is that we already have enough resources to ensure a sustainable future, we just have to figure out better ways to put them to use.

h/t: Biofuels Digest.

Image: Sahara Desert by mtsrs

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

 
Check out our brand new E-Bike Guide. If you're curious about electric bikes, this is the best place to start your e-mobility journey!
 
 
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality and cleantech news coverage? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Advertisement
 
Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

Comments

You May Also Like

Clean Power

A new wind turbine blade recycling strategy deploys gravity-based energy storage technology for maximum circular economy impact.

Consumer Technology

The fashion industry has been coming under fire in recent years for its environmental impact. Not only does the industry have a large carbon...

Clean Power

A just transition to the 2035 decarbonization goal is achievable by planning ahead for the renewable energy workforce of tomorrow.

Clean Transport

Several startups have set out to providw a new avenue for motorcycle taxi riders to lower their operating costs, increase their earnings, and ultimately...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.