Green

Energy Dept. teams with Masdar Initiative to advance cleantech breakthroughs

The U.S. Department of Energy announced today that it has signed an agreement with Masdar, the Abu Dhabi organization overseeing a far-reaching strategy for developing and deploying renewable energy and other sustainable technologies. The two organizations say they will work together to make these advancements more affordable and accessible for the world community.

The memorandum of understanding will open lines of communication between the U.S. government and the companies governing and working on Masdar’s various projects. The idea is to share best practices and research and development resources, particularly to advance carbon capture, water and biofuel technologies, the Energy Department says.

The culmination of the Masdar Initiative is Masdar City, a radically green, planned community located in Abu Dhabi, built by corporations including the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, and funded by the United Arab Emirates government. It will act as home base for the International Renewable Energy Agency and is expected to cost $22 billion over eight years of construction.

Running only on solar power and other alternative sources of energy, the city — covering 2.3 square miles — is designed by British firm Foster + Partners to be both carbon and waste neutral. Cars will be banned from its streets in favor of greener mass transit options. And the streets are designed to be narrower and shaded to allow for natural cooling.

Masdar City will also house the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an educational institution with close ties to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It won’t just be a laboratory for green technologies, but a real, working urban environment. Current plans account for 50,000 residents and 1,500 businesses. About 60,000 more workers are expected to commute into Masdar City every day.

In addition to solar installations on most rooftops, 20-megawatts’ worth of wind turbines will be erected outside the city’s perimeter. Beyond that, a massive hydrogen power plant is in the works.

Water innovation is one of the areas the Energy Department is most interested in. Masdar City will depend on solar-powered desalination facilities to meet its population’s freshwater needs. Up to 80 percent of the water used will also be recycled as many times as possible, with gray water being used to irrigate agricultural plot.

Achieving waste neutrality may be the most difficult challenge. Bio-waste will be recycled into fuel via incineration or fertilizer for crops. Plastics and glass will be aggressively recycled under current plans.

Masdar and its investors already have numerous ties in the U.S. For example, General Electric will be testing many of its new smart, energy-efficient appliances, like refrigerators and clothes dryers, within the city. The Masdar Clean Tech Fund is also a major investor in Bay Area-based solar module maker Solyndra, Texas thin-film maker HelioVolt, and clean energy company EnerTech, among other American ventures.

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