I recently happened upon an article from MIT's Technology Review about a new city that is proposed to be for energy what silicon valley is for computing. Like nearly structure with a huge pricetag and even bigger ambitions - it's being built in the United Arab Emirates. Located on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, it is called Masdar City, where masdar translates to 'source' in Arabic.
Consistent with the development programs and construction projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Masdar Initiative, the organization behind the city's planning, has created a program that will dwarf every similar project in the world. To be completed by 2016, the $15bn project (with $18bn from outside investors) will provide a sustainable oasis in the desert. In the end, 50,000 residents are expected to reside in the city and work at some of the 1,500 clean tech business the Masdar Initiative is hoping to attract to the development projects.
The city will include some of the most innovative resource conservation technologies, while also leveraging construction methods used in pre-electrification cities in the UAE. The plan is to reduce the city's power consumption to just 20% of an average city while being completely carbon neutral. Since they are going to rely entirely on solar power, they plan on using natural gas power from Abu Dhabi at night, which means they will have to generate a surplus of solar power during the day to offset their nighttime carbon emissions, no small feat for any city, and not a plan with a low price tag either. They also plan on virtually eliminating waste water and trash streams by recycling as much as possible.
A project on a scale such as this faces a lot of challenges. Getting any construction project finished on time and on budget is difficult and that task will be made all the more difficult when applying technologies that have been applied only in models or small scale projects thus far. If the project is successful and profitable, particularly in the area of building energy management controls, it may serve as a model for development plans in other cities, particularly those in hot places with water problems, like Texas.