Sahara Forest Project Converts Desert into Oasis

by , 09/04/08

sahara forest innitiative, solar power for the world, sahara solar power, sahara green solutions, powering africa, sahara desalination plant, combination of green technologies

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.

+ Seawater Greenhouse

+ Exploration Architecture

+ Max Fordham

Via Treehugger and The Guardian

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  1. Christer Svensson October 6, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Make electricity from the sun, sweet water from salt water, habitats from compressed sand and a haven for refugees to build a new eco society

  2. Sohosh Soto October 5, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Pero que mierda es esta?
    What shit is this?
    Are not deserts part of the environment. talk about environmentalism Oximoronship! Next they will come up with drying parts of the ocean to make environmental safe Disneyland.

  3. Jonny Olthoff March 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    @Dixon1E – I agree with you.

    This project is very good. I hope this project and others like it have a chance to make positive change in this world, and to eventually eliminate the need for fossil fuels altogether.

  4. Ryan Privee July 8, 2013 at 7:26 am

    The rich oil sheiks should be funding this…..

  5. naamor December 2, 2010 at 4:20 am

    Gotta Learn About this for a School project great idea though hope it all goes well

  6. KHWILED EZEIDI February 13, 2010 at 9:36 am

    It ‘s realy an important project especially for protecting both the human and the wilde life in over the world
    but could you informe me about the countries interested by this project in all the world.THANK YUO

  7. Leon October 6, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Does anybody know whether the project is represented at the Horti Fair in Amsterdam?

  8. Shant October 1, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Before the the skepticism hits, I would just like to say this is a really cool idea to irrigate deserts if the benefit outweighs the cost, which it does with these plans.

    My friend and I built a machine in our backyard whose capacity of converting seawater (or any water) into pure water beats the rates given by the Seawater Greenhouses 16 fold. I did my calculations based on our rate of 15 gallons per hour and converted over to their claim of 1,000,000 gallons of water a day over a land mass of 10,000 hectares. My machine is about 6 square feet and runs off the sun (plenty in the deserts) and even works at night because the water stores a lot of heat.

    Anyways, I’m trying to get a hold of the “trio of entrepeneurs” to pitch my idea. Anybody know who they are and how to contact them? I emailed Patton, but no response. They must be pretty busy. I need to hurry up before they spill a lot of money on something and then realize there is a cheaper way.


  9. igloodesigndecor September 22, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    interesting, at least there is something we can do in the dessert for people who live there altough maybe they have their own life style

  10. chrpapa September 21, 2008 at 8:27 am

    The project is feasible but the best technology for its application is the Floating Solar Chimney technology ( ) and not CSP technology , that demands a lot of water for cleaning and cooling its mirrors.

  11. Inhabitat » The S... September 15, 2008 at 5:02 am

    […] named Superstar is a completely self-sustaining city that is capable of producing all of its own power and food while recycling all of its waste. Conceived as a future-forward update to the contemporary […]

  12. Fred September 6, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    I don’t agree with Jona. Sure, if we look at these plans from a short term point of veiw, it will not always be a good idea. it doesn’t like a market plan which can be forecasted easyily. However, that’s definitely a trend to consider the problem of future energy. Therefore, the nature, the world necessitate our people to think about it, even it is a plan for 100 years later, That’s the meaning of sustainable development.

  13. dixon1e September 6, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Well Jona, though it is trite to post this quote, I will post it anyway, because I must:

    The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

    George Bernard Shaw

    Far from being doomed to failure, each individual attempt at this project builds pieces of success for the next team to learn from. Witness the failure of the first Panama canal, versus the success of the second. Far too many rejected the project as impossible in the first place and reveled in the failure of the first French attempt. Yet this attempt discovered where the weak planning points were, and showed others the ultimate road to success.

    With a reminder that both Panama Canal attempts surely cost over 30,000 lives, one cannot help but side with human history, and so also with these dreamers. Support them, even through their failures, I say. They will eventually get it right, but humanity will never learn how unless the brave fools try. And try they will, _because_ they are unreasonable. Perhaps those who get in their way are the real fools.

  14. postdomesticated September 5, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    The following link points to a YouTube video on Greening The Desert with Permaculture Techniques. It is basically an integrated application of Jona\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s suggestions: \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\”micro-management of erosion and desertification, biochar soil enhancement, small reforestation efforts, irrigation infrastructures and water storage technologies\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\”

  15. thejimgaudet September 5, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Eventually everyone will get the idea that this is a better way of doing things.

  16. Jona September 5, 2008 at 12:29 am

    Sigh, yet another green the desert plan. There are so many of them. You will never get the electricity out of the Sahara to useful places at a competitive cost, and you will never get Sahelians to buy food that costs 10 times as much as the food they produce themselves.

    It\\\’s a nice fantasy, and \\\”greening the desert\\\” is good to think with. But expect no practical solutions. What the small populations in the Sahel really need is micro-management of erosion and desertification, biochar soil enhancement, small reforestation efforts, irrigation infrastructures and water storage technologies.

    The EU has its \\\”Green Wall for the Sahara\\\” project (Google it), and there is DESERTEC (integrated with desalination and agriculture) to bring electricity from CSP to Europe, but these plans are decades old and too difficult to pull of because of political and social reasons. They\\\’re also way too costly.

    Greening the desert will forever remain a concept.

  17. kasper September 4, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    brilliant. make it. now.

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