Is this science fiction, or is it reality?
Imagine this. You are in a city of 40,000 people. There are no cars as such. It is an almost exclusively pedestrian environment. There are no carbon emissions. Every single thing is powered by some form of renewable energy such as solar electricity, or solar heated water and so on.
The oppressive heat of the day is blocked out to a large extent by giant umbrellas which resemble huge flowers opening as the day warms up. The very ground which you are walking on is cooled by water flowing just beneath. The air is amazingly clear due to the complete lack of emissions.
You have access to a full complement of the finest stores and malls. There is a world class university at hand. People hop into people movers, and with the push of a single button are transported to their chosen destination as if by magic. The theater is waiting for your arrival in the evening. Seemingly, nothing is missing – except the pollution we have all grown used to.
What say you? Sci-fi or reality? If not today, when? And where?
As unlikely as this sounds in 2009, such a city actually exists today. Not in our imagination, but in actual fact.
For years, the alternative energy crowd has been longing for the day when they could say "We told you so". It seems that day has arrived, and it has done so in spectacular style and fashion.
It has been only a very short while since CNN aired a short two minute clip which was shot on location in Masdar, UAE. While it turns out that one or two of the statistics quoted by CNN are just a little off, the gist of the story was right on the money. What an exciting story it was!
Since that day, the university has opened its 'doors for business, the first residents are at home, and the ongoing quest for the worlds' future energy solutions is underway.
Having heard all this good news, it may come as a surprise that the power system for Masdar is no different than what is available to us all, and in fact has been for several years. Some ninety thousand solar panels – just the regular old silicon based variety – provide much of the electricity.
Even though there are different and more efficient panels on the drawing board, and many of the new techniques have actually been proven, it is indeed heartening to see what can be done with good old silicon PV panels.