Sahara Forest in Aqaba to turn sun and seawater into food and drinkig water?

Honestly I was surprised more than thrilled to read about this next huge thing to be promised to materialize in Jordan. The report published by CosmicLog hosted by MSNBC does not shy away from stating that a new green machine will be bulit in Aqaba that will “turn sun and seawater into food, fuel and drinking water”. This will simply be a one-stop shop for solving all development challenges.

We in Jordan have been accustomed to huge promises that evaporate at a rate faster than the Dead Sea water, so why should this be a more genuine project? The Sahara Forest Project in Jordan, as stated by the founders has the potential to turn deserts into green oases that soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus curb global climate change. The conceptual drawing is, naturally a breathtaking depiction of things to happen.

The machine integrates a 10-megawatt solar power plant with a high-tech greenhouse and desalination system to turn readily available sun and seawater into life essentials that are increasingly difficult to acquire affordably in the Middle East.

Here’s how it works: Saltwater pumped from the Red Sea is evaporated from grilles at the front of the greenhouse to create cool and humid conditions, which are good for growing food and algae. The algae can be used to produce more food or fuel.

As the cool and humid air leaves the growing area, it passes over a second evaporator containing seawater heated by the sun, which warms the air so it can hold even more water. This hot and humid air then meets a series of vertical pipes that have been cooled by seawater, which causes the freshwater vapors to condense and trickle as freshwater droplets down the tubes for collection.

This freshwater is then heated by a concentrated solar power plant, which creates steam to turn turbines that generate electricity. The electricity powers the pumps and fans used to bring saltwater in from the Red Sea and grow crops and algae in the greenhouse. Leftover freshwater will be used to re-green the area around the greenhouse, creating that carbon-soaking vegetative sponge.

To test the design, project partners signed a deal to build a demonstration machine on a 50-acre site in Aqaba with funding from the Norwegian government. The designers estimate the construction cost to be $110 million (80 million euros). In addition, the project has rights for expansion onto 500 acres.

In-depth feasibility studies will be conducted throughout 2011. Construction of the pilot plant is slated for 2012, with commercial-scale development eyed for 2015.

One of the project partners, Bellona issued a detailed statement that describes how the project idea evolved and was focusing on Jordan. The statement says: “Last Hune King Abdullah II saw a project presentation during a vist to Oslo and he was left impressed with its possibilities, saying he was ready to facilitate its implementation in Jordan”. The eventual agrrement was signed by Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Joudeh and Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store 12 days ago in Jordan.

I keep my hopes very high that such a pioneering idea can be implemented without being hindred by bureaucracy and lackluster implementation pace.However, one thing for me remains unknown: how will the project manage to huge amounts of salt brine that will result after the desalination of swa water?

About bwardam

Mr Batir Wardam is a Jordanian environmentalist with professional experience in disciplines of natural resource management, environmental policies and communication. He has a 15 years working experience with national academic institutions, NGOs, the government of Jordan and international and regional environmental organizations including UNDP, UNEP and IUCN. Mr Wardam is currently working with UNDP as a project manager for the third national communication report on climate change in Jordan.
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2 Responses to Sahara Forest in Aqaba to turn sun and seawater into food and drinkig water?

  1. It is important to note that it is not a photovoltaic system, which I think is the most interesting part of the project. No mention of how much fresh water will be produced by the system, however.

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