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Green growth in the desert

In the Middle East and Northern Africa, the world is arid. In some areas, oil drives the economy (and thus the reason you see moneyed oases in the middle of barren desert). In other areas, there is little but sand. However, imagine if, through greenhouse technology, there was a way to revitalize the desert into an area of plant life.


The Sahara Forest Project is a company that is working to provide fresh water, food, and renewable energy in hot, arid regions, as well as re-vegetating areas of uninhabited desert.


This project is attempting to go beyond "carbon neutrality." It is actually attempting to be “carbon negative." This means the complex will attempt to grow food and generate energy while removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which, in theory, would take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.


There are three core technologies involved in this project. The first is concentrated solar power that heats sun rays to a super-hot level, creating steam heat to power an energy-creating turbine, while using the evaporated water to cool the system.


The second technology, and one we will go into more detail in a future post, is called the seawater-cooled greenhouse. In areas with little freshwater, seawater can be used. When it is hot outside, incoming air is pulled over evaporative pads that have salt water running over them. The hot air is cooled by evaporation to produce cool and humid conditions in the greenhouse. 
When it is cool and humid outside, the greenhouse can be heated in a conventional way using heating pipes on the ground. In addition, the air is can be passed over the pads with concentrated bitterns that will absorb the moisture in the air and warm it, instead of using heat through the rails.


However, the saltwater can be used for this purpose for so long before it becomes too saturated for cooling use. At that point, the brine will be evaporated more and the water from that solution will be used to hedges, which will create humid areas for which vegetation can grow (the third technology).


For more information, please click on the Sahara Forest Project’s website page. (Photo courtesy of the Sahara Forest Project)