Abu Dhabi Breaks Ground on Carbon-Neutral City

John Davis

Masdar InitiativeThe world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city goes not to the renewable fuel-crazed U.S., but to Abu Dhabi. The capital of the United Arab Emeriates broke ground on Masdar City earlier this month. If this city actually functions as its supposed to, I think it will be rather impressive. When is the U.S. breaking ground on it’s own carbon-neutral playground?

Masdar CEO Dr. Sultan Al Jaber announced a total development budget for the city of $22 billion. Of that investment total, Masdar (“the source” in Arabic) will contribute $4 billion to develop the city’s infrastructure. The remaining $18 billion will come through direct investments and the creation of various financial instruments to raise needed capital. An essential driver for the development of the city is carbon finance. Carbon emissions reduced by Masdar City will be monetized under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.

In addition to full-time residents, Masdar City will seek to attract and encourage collaboration between experts in sustainable transportation; waste management; water and wastewater conservation; green construction, buildings and industrial materials; recycling; biodiversity; climate change, renewable energy and green financial institutions. Masdar will maximize the benefits of sustainable technologies, such as photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power, through an integrated planning and design approach.

By implementing these technologies, Masdar City will save the equivalent of more than US $2 billion in oil over the next 25 years, based on today’s energy prices. The city will also create more than 70,000 jobs and will add more than two percent to Abu Dhabi’s annual GDP.

“We are creating a city where residents and commuters will live the highest quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “Masdar City will become the world’s hub for future energy. By taking sustainable development and living to a new level, it will lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built.”

In addition, the city will achieve unprecedented levels of demand reduction. Highlights include:

— Seventy-five percent reduction in installed power capacity; Masdar City
will require approximately 200 MW of installed clean power versus more
than 800 MW of installed capacity to power a similar city based on
conventional design

— Water needs cut by more than half; Masdar City will require around
8,000 m3 per day of desalinated water versus more than 20,000 m3 per
day for traditional cities

— Landfill area severely diminished; a city of this size would have
required millions of square meters of landfill area; Masdar City will
need virtually no landfill area.

The first step in the city’s seven-phase plan is the development of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), the world’s first graduate university dedicated to renewable energy. Developed in collaboration with MIT and scheduled to open in 2009, MIST will maintain a body of students and professors focused on developing the next generation of solutions to the world’s growing dependence on fossil fuels.

The six-square kilometre district is designed by renowned architecture firm Foster + Partners and set to be completed in 2016 in conjunction with Abu Dhabi’s 2030 Development Plan. It will eventually grow to 1,500 businesses and 50,000 residents and will be home to international business and top minds in the field of sustainable and alternative energy. Of this, 30 percent will be zoned for housing; 24 percent for the business and research district; 13 percent for commercial purposes, including light manufacturing; 6 percent for the MIST; 19 percent for service and transportation; and 8 percent for civic and cultural pursuits.

Masdar City will be the home of the Masdar Initiative, Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar investment in the development and commercialization of innovative technologies in renewable, alternative and sustainable energies as well as sustainable design. In January 2008, Abu Dhabi announced it will invest $15 billion in Masdar, the largest single government investment of its kind.

The groundbreaking ceremony’s electricity needs and carbon emissions were entirely offset by solar power reserves produced by Masdar’s photovoltaic testing facilities. Since it began producing power for the national grid in December 2007, the facility has generated more than 5,500 kilowatt hours of electricity and saved more than four tons of CO2.

Energy, Facilities, Hydrogen, News, Research, Solar, Wind