Recently a trio of entrepreneurs announced an incredible solution for the world’s resource problems: turn the Sahara desert into a source for food, water, and energy. The Sahara Forest Project (.PDF) is a solution that combines seemingly disparate technologies – Concentrated solar power and Seawater Greenhouses – and turns them into a mean, green super-massive biomachine. The elegant system could potentially produce enough energy for all of Africa and Europe while turning one of the world’s most inhospitable regions into a flourishing oasis.
The Sahara Forest Project is the brainchild of Charlie Paton, Michael Pawlyn and Bill Watts. The project aims to provide a source of renewable energy, food and water to desert regions around the world by taking a number of proven technologies and merging them into a system that works holistically to do its work. It’s an exciting synergy, as both Seawater greenhouses and concentrated solar power technologies are perfectly suited to work in hot, dry climates.
A Seawater Greenhouse converts sea water into fresh water using nothing more than the sun’s rays. It does this by running air through a structure whose walls are infused with cold sea water. As air enters it is immediately cooled, humidified, and then condensed into fresh water by sunlight.
Concentrated solar power is a technology that utilizes thousands of mirrors to focus sunlight upon a water boiler, heating it to over 1,000 degrees fahrenheit. This generates steam, which in turn drives a turbine to produce energy.
The Sahara Forest Project also has the ability to provide for agricultural growth and development in inhospitable arid regions. Fresh water produced by the Seawater Greenhouses can be used to grow a crops such jathropha, which can easily be turned into biofuel.
The development team expects that the Sahara Forest Project would span 20 hectares and cost about 80 million euros. It will be presented as part of the Future of Science’s Fourth World Conference, to be held between the 24th and 27th of September, which will be focusing on the theme of food and water for life.