Abu Dhabi today broke ground on Masdar City, the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste, car- free city. The global milestone event was marked by the laying of a virtual cornerstone by His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and a visually stunning production depicting life in the city.
In conjunction with the groundbreaking, Masdar CEO Dr. Sultan Al Jaber announced a total development budget for the city of $22 billion. Of that investment total, Masdar ("the source" in Arabic) will contribute $4 billion to develop the city's infrastructure. The remaining $18 billion will come through direct investments and the creation of various financial instruments to raise needed capital. An essential driver for the development of the city is carbon finance. Carbon emissions reduced by Masdar City will be monetized under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.
In addition to full-time residents, Masdar City will seek to attract and encourage collaboration between experts in sustainable transportation; waste management; water and wastewater conservation; green construction, buildings and industrial materials; recycling; biodiversity; climate change, renewable energy and green financial institutions. Masdar will maximize the benefits of sustainable technologies, such as photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power, through an integrated planning and design approach.
By implementing these technologies, Masdar City will save the equivalent of more than US $2 billion in oil over the next 25 years, based on today's energy prices. The city will also create more than 70,000 jobs and will add more than two percent to Abu Dhabi's annual GDP.
"We are creating a city where residents and commuters will live the highest quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint," said Dr. Al Jaber. "Masdar City will become the world's hub for future energy. By taking sustainable development and living to a new level, it will lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built."
In addition, the city will achieve unprecedented levels of demand reduction. Highlights include:
- Seventy-five percent reduction in installed power capacity; Masdar City will require approximately 200 MW of installed clean power versus more than 800 MW of installed capacity to power a similar city based on conventional design
- Water needs cut by more than half; Masdar City will require around 8,000 m3 per day of desalinated water versus more than 20,000 m3 per day for traditional cities
- Landfill area severely diminished; a city of this size would have required millions of square meters of landfill area; Masdar City will need virtually no landfill area.
The first step in the city's seven-phase plan is the development of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), the world's first graduate university dedicated to renewable energy. Developed in collaboration with MIT and scheduled to open in 2009, MIST will maintain a body of students and professors focused on developing the next generation of solutions to the world's growing dependence on fossil fuels.
The six-square kilometre district is designed by renowned architecture firm Foster + Partners and set to be completed in 2016 in conjunction with Abu Dhabi's 2030 Development Plan. It will eventually grow to 1,500 businesses and 50,000 residents and will be home to international business and top minds in the field of sustainable and alternative energy. Of this, 30 percent will be zoned for housing; 24 percent for the business and research district; 13 percent for commercial purposes, including light manufacturing; 6 percent for the MIST; 19 percent for service and transportation; and 8 percent for civic and cultural pursuits.
Masdar City is one of the flagship projects of the One Planet Living(TM) programme -- a global initiative launched by WWF (also known as the World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Wildlife Fund). One Planet Living(TM) aims to prove that it is possible to live within ecological limits and still improve the quality of people's lives. One Planet Living(TM) communities, such as Masdar, aim to put the principles of sustainability into practice, and Masdar City exceeds these principles.
Masdar City will be the home of the Masdar Initiative, Abu Dhabi's multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar investment in the development and commercialization of innovative technologies in renewable, alternative and sustainable energies as well as sustainable design. In January 2008, Abu Dhabi announced it will invest $15 billion in Masdar, the largest single government investment of its kind.
The groundbreaking ceremony's electricity needs and carbon emissions were entirely offset by solar power reserves produced by Masdar's photovoltaic testing facilities. Since it began producing power for the national grid in December 2007, the facility has generated more than 5,500 kilowatt hours of electricity and saved more than four tons of CO2.