A Renewable Oasis Rises in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi's government initiative may lead to the greenest city ever. Masdar City, the world's first large scale carbon-neutral development, recently partnered with leading research organization Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft to develop a new center focused on technologies indispensable for the sustainable cities of the future.

The United Arab Emirates plan to complete the $22 billion development, which was begun last February, in 2016 creating new homes for about 40,000. The building will be powered primarily from solar roof panels, as will the city, as a 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant was recently integrated into Abu Dhabi's grid.

Masdar City was designed by Foster and Partners, Norman Foster's well known firm that is also working on the world's first commercial space launch pad.

The city will not be the car-filled urban landscape of the standard metropolis, but instead by light railway and personalized rapid transport pods.

Abu Dhabi's initiative is also preparing to launch a new clean tech fund this year with capital of at least $250 million. Masdar was launched in 2006 with $15 billion in capital and has directly invested $820 million in clean tech companies since, such as the well known WinWinD.

The Sustainable Cities Research Center will begin with 25-man team, concentrating developing solar energy, efficient buildings, water and desalination and electro-mobility, among others. The center, planned to be near the Abu Dhabi International Airport, will serve as a hub between the Gulf and Europe, making possible future clean technology collaboration.

The German institute's partnership with Masdar City will not be confined to the center, and will also include collaboration between the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and other regional institutions. "We believe global collaboration is essential to achieving [innovation in clean and renewable technologies], our partnerships with MIT, DLR, Imperial College and the Tokyo Institute of Technology are proof of this," said Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, Masdar CEO.

Rajendra Pachauri, a Nobel laureate and previously director general of the New Delhi Energy and Resources Institute, recently extended his support towards Abu Dhabi's work towards the world's first renewable energy agency. The UAE proposed that the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) could be housed in this new city-- free of charge; however Bonn and Vienna are also contending to host the new headquarters.

According to Pachauri, the UAE has "quietly stepped forward to expand its role in the community of nations; through its efforts in sustainable and renewable energies, it has positioned itself as the ideal home for Irena's headquarters." He also cites the country as having a history of environmental commitment, such as the 1970s decision to stop gas flaring.

Masdar has the potential to be a global landmark with zero carbon and zero waste. Masdar, literally "the source" in Arabic, could be the spawning ground and test site for the evolution of urban life.