The Sahara Forest Project pilot plant in Doha, Qatar is open and running and the vision of producing food, fresh water and clean energy in the desert is turning into reality. The pilot plant was built in cooperation by The Sahara Forest Project AS, Yara International and the Qatar Fertiliser Company, QAFCO.
The pilot plant officially opened on December, 11. After 10 months of intense construction, guests at the COP-18 environmental talks in Qatar could tour the pilot facility and dine on the first cucumbers grown within the Sahara Forest Project pilot plant.
“This is a fascinating project. It's almost like you cannot believe it until you see it. Here they use what there is abundance of to create what there is the least of,” says Bård Vegar Solhjell, Norwegian Minister of the Environment, one of the first guests at the pilot facility.
“Here they use what there is abundance of to create what there is the least of”
Bård Vegar Solhjell, Norwegian Minister of the Environment
The Sahara Forest Project is a new environmental solution to produce food, water and energy in desert areas. “It is designed to utilize what we have enough of to produce what we need more of, using desert, sunlight, saltwater and CO2 to produce food, water and clean energy,” explains Joakim Hauge, CEO of Sahara Forest Project.
In February 2012, Yara, QAFCO and the Sahara Forest Project AS signed a cooperation agreement to start a pilot project in Doha, Qatar.
"The Sahara Forest Project collaboration is a perfect fit to Yara's agenda of developing sustainable solutions, creating value for us as a company as well as to society. We have to accept that businesses must operate in a more sustainable way, and I believe innovative partnerships such as the one with Sahara Forest Project are vital to trigger this development," says Jørgen Ole Haslestad, CEO of Yara.
He believes that company leaders should see beyond standard business boundaries and understand the need to be ahead of ordinary progress.
"Innovation is essential to address global challenges. The Sahara Forest Project creates a new approach to the combined issues of food, energy, fresh water and climate change," says Jørgen Haslestad. "It is absolutely exciting to see fresh, ripe vegetables growing in the desert, based on sunshine and salt water! It's a moonwalk moment."
Green technologies and promising future
The Sahara Forest Project combines existing and proven environmental technologies, including saltwater-cooled greenhouses, concentrated solar power (CSP) and technologies for desert re-vegetation around a saltwater infrastructure.
The synergies arising from integrating the technologies improve the performance and economics of the system compared to those of the individual components. Through establishing new vegetation in previously barren land the system also offers the potential to store considerable amounts of CO2 in new plants.
“Now we are demonstrating the first Sahara Forest Project pilot facility in Qatar. This facility contains 10,000 square meters of environmental technologies that have never been put together before, “says Joakim Hauge.
According to the Sahara Forest Project founders, the project concept and technologies can be implemented in many of the world’s hot deserts. “The pilot facility will provide us with the unique opportunity to optimize our technological system, but we are not in this to produce pilots. We want to go large scale,” adds Joakim Hauge.