Solar Project Brings Water and Crops to Desert

(Images via: OSGDE, Paolino Foto and TreeHugger)

The Sahara Desert is a notoriously hostile environment where it is almost impossible to survive – let alone grow and thrive. The Sahara Forest Project is an audacious environmental undertaking aims to change all of that. Using an inspired combination of solar power and seawater, an ambitious collective of environmental designers, architects and engineers has plans to convert part this harsh desert into a thriving plant paradise that will bring food, water and power to one of the most unlikely places on the planet.

(Image via Robert Downey)

The first critical move is to use concentrated solar power bring in vast amounts of solar energy via huge arrays of mirrors that will supply the installation with electrical power and heat. The second essential step is the employment of seawater greenhouses which useseawater rather than tapping into the depleted underwater freshwater sources via wells. The solar power is used to evaporate the seawater, clean and cool it, and to spread the conditioned air throughout a system of greenhouses.

(Image via: Wikipedia)

The result: cool air, plenty of freshwater moisture, and copious plant growth. What can be grown? Essentially anything you can imagine, including most kinds of staple produce found in your local grocery stores. Best of all, the seawater being used is rich in nutrients which can be used in the growing process which in turn minimizes the need to bring in external nutrient sources from outside of this closed system.

And outside of the system? Extra clean water can be released into the local atmosphere and create a regional microclimate that can sustain the growth of some kinds of plants that can live outside of the greenhouses. In the long run, then, not only can the greenhouses themselves provide food but the entire operation can improve the regional climactic conditions and repair environmental damage (such as fresh water depletion) slowly change the local ecosystem back to something closer to what it was thousands of years ago.

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