Electronic chauffer: Driverless transports will provide door-to-door service for occupants of a new city being built in Abu Dhabi (top). A typical street will be sheltered from most direct sunlight. Solar panels overhead and built into the walls of buildings will provide power.
Last week, in the harsh desert climate of Abu Dhabi, construction started on a city that will house 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses but use extremely little energy, and what it does use will come from renewable sources. The initial building is a new research institute that the founders hope will be the seed for the equivalent of a Silicon Valley of the Middle East, only one centered not on information technology but on renewable energy.
The city, which is expected to cost $22 billion, will implement an array of technologies, including thin-film solar panels that serve as the facades and roofing materials for buildings, ubiquitous sensors for monitoring energy use, and driverless vehicles powered by batteries that make cars unnecessary. Indeed, the city's founders hope that it will serve as a test bed for a myriad of new technologies being proposed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
The new zero-emissions city, which is being built near the city of Abu Dhabi in the center of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is part of the Masdar Initiative, a $15 billion government-funded investment program designed in part to ensure that the UAE's prosperity won't be linked exclusively to its oil. Its leaders say that the project will give the country a leadership position in renewable energy. If it's successful, says Sultan al Jaber, Masdar's CEO, "we'll be sitting on top of the world."
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