World’s first zero-carbon city? In Dubai? I must have been asleep when this story started making the rounds a couple of weeks ago. I just saw the story in a local newspaper, but a Google search shows that the story first hit the wires about 2 weeks ago:
ABU DHABI (AFP) — The oil-rich United Arab Emirates was set to start work on Sunday on construction of the world’s first zero carbon emissions city, a spokesman for the project said.
“Construction on Masdar City begins today,” the spokesman told AFP, adding that the 6.5-square-kilometre (2.5-square-mile) development will cost 22 billion dollars and is set for completion in 2015.
Masdar City will house 50,000 people and will be run entirely on renewable energy including solar power, exploiting the desert state’s near constant supply of sunshine.
The city, which is named after the Arabic word for “source”, will be built in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. Residents will use electric-powered travel pods to move around the city.
The UAE sits on the world’s fifth largest oil reserves and fourth largest gas reserves, most of them in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Proven oil reserves alone are expected to last for another 150 years but, like most oil-producing countries, the UAE wants to diversify to ease its reliance on oil.
The UAE has the world’s largest ecological footprint, consuming more natural resources per capita than any other nation, according to a 2004 report by the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Funny, I thought this sort of thing would be done first in California or Oregon – or in a place that already has a very low carbon footprint. I think the biggest challenge for this project is getting enough solar power to run peak air-conditioning loads. I think that will be the limiting factor in this experiment. Well, that and getting people from an oil-rich nation who are accustomed to using all of the fossil fuel they want, to actually move to this new city. After all, they aren’t exactly accustomed to living an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
More coverage, including skepticism from environmentalists:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — This Gulf desert nation, one of the world’s most environmentally unfriendly with its ubiquitous air conditioning, swimming pools and SUVs, might be looking to redeem itself. It has begun building what it calls the world’s first zero-carbon city.
“Every little bit helps,” said Jonathan Loh, a British biologist who co-authored a 2006 World Wildlife Fund report that measured consumption by nations around the world. “It would be best if the UAE reduced energy consumption throughout the country not just in one location.”
Then, reiterating my thoughts above:
Nearly every indoor space — including sprawling malls and giant villas — is air conditioned, seen as a necessity in a country where the winters are hot and the summers blazing. Extravagances like swimming pools with chilled water, an indoor ski slope that produces snow when it’s 120 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside and an all-ice restaurant push up the electricity bill. The unusual mode of transport is SUV or Hummer — there is no public transportation, or even sidewalks in most parts of the city.
Not sure how they are going to address the air conditioning problem. Anyone ever calculated how much roof space you need to run peak air conditioning on solar panels in a hot location?