"Construction is under way on what is being called the world's first carbon-neutral city, rising from a featureless sandy expanse near the Abu Dhabi airport. Green as the city is intended to be, some environmentalists have criticized the project for deflecting attention from ongoing unsustainable development in a region with few natural resources aside from oil.
The city called Masdar, Arabic for "source," will have 40,000 residents and be powered exclusively by the sun, wind and heat stored in the earth.
Project leaders are relying on future "green" innovations -- what project manager Amer Battikhi calls "jumps in technologies" -- to make the goal possible. For that reason, many of the solar fields planned for the city will be built near the end of the eight-year project.
A 10-megawatt solar farm was built first, however, to generate power for the first phase of construction. Planners are also using recycled steel and recycled concrete and hope to recycle and reuse all construction waste. Waste that can't be recycled is being collected in hopes that future technologies will allow it to be recycled.
Much of the city is being constructed on a platform, or pedestal. Above the pedestal will be pedestrian streets and a dense mix of businesses and homes. Below the pedestal, a fleet of nearly 3,000 electric vehicles called "personal rapid transit" pods will carry residents and visitors through the city.
Traditional cars will be barred from entering Masdar. Light rail will connect the city with the carbon-emitting world.
Water will be produced by solar-powered desalination and will be reused for irrigation. Even the dew will be collected for use."