Sahara Forest Project, desalinating ocean water to turn deserts green.

I personally think that this Sahara Forest Project is one of the most practical ways to combat world hunger, plus reduce the risk of coastal areas being flooded in the event of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet going through a period of rapidly cracking and sliding into the ocean!

I believe that we should be genuinely worried about the possible collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

A one meter rise in ocean levels would put nearly a hundred million people out of their homes in Bangladesh alone. The Maldive Islands would be gone and high tides and storm surges could be up by far more than one meter!
Collapse Of Antarctic Ice Sheet Would Likely Put Washington, D.C. Largely Underwater

We don’t have a food supply problem, we have a corruption problem. There’s enough food in the world today to feed everyone. It doesn’t get to hungry people because of corruption and war.

However, reforesting the Sahara (which used to be the bread basket of ancient Rome) would be a great idea.

Corruption is only a small part of the issue. Overproduction in other countries is the problem. Take the United States. Farmers are paid billions of dollars each year to not grow anything. Why? Supply and demand. If there is too much corn on the market, corn prices go down.

In one report, things were getting better in the Sahara and other parts of Africa:

Desalinating ocean water is one possible solution.


Well, yes, but while some parts of the world benefit from increased rainfall, the downside is that other parts of the world are drying out. Such is the nature of climate change.

Desalination may well be a useful way to make the desert bloom. The proposal certainly is ambitious. However, last year the Sahara Forest Project began to make concrete progress towards the first actual implementation.

The Sahara Forest Project (SFP) took a huge step closer towards realisation with the signing of an agreement on the rights to develop a pilot Sahara Forest Project system on a plot of land in a coastal area in Jordan. In addition The Sahara Forest Project will conduct a number of studies in Jordan, with economical backing from Norwegian authorities.

The project, which envisages using a unique combination of technologies to turn arid desert areas into fertile lands, has been in development for several years.

The site that has finally been settled upon to build the project’s first test facility is a 200 000 square metre location in Aqaba, a coastal town in the far south of Jordan, some kilometres from the shore of the Red Sea. SFP has also secured rights to an area of additional 2 000 000 square metre for later expansion.

The fact that the Bellona Foundation has signed onto this project makes me think it may become a reality. Whether it works as promised… I guess we will see.

Thoroughly impressive comments TriumphGuy!

I had mentioned that fact about parts of what is now the Sahara Desert being at one time the breadbasket of the Roman Empire and it is amazing how many well educated posters on discussion boards disputed that historical fact!

Extremely well said Ed.

Yes, you have struck at the root of several problems here and yes…I read an article a year or so ago that speculated that because the atmosphere had higher levels of CO2 which is plant food, that specific areas in the Sahara were turning green even though there was still no discernible increase in the amount of rain there?!

It’s pretty clever - conventionally, desalinating seawater takes a huge input of energy - essentially trading oil for fresh water. This is basically solar powered, and not photovoltaic, but just using heat from the sun. If comparing to the conventional approach, you probably get a lot less fresh water per acre of facility this way, so it’s not going to be utility-scale water production, but if it’s enough water to grow crops on-site then I suppose it makes sense.

According to the National Geographic article which Edwest cited, the greening is due to a increase in rainfall.

[quote=National Geographic article]Scientists are now seeing signals that the Sahara desert and surrounding regions are greening due to increasing rainfall.

The transition may be occurring because hotter air has more capacity to hold moisture, which in turn creates more rain, said Martin Claussen of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, who was not involved in the new study.

“The nomads there told me there was never as much rainfall as in the past few years,” Kröpelin said. “They have never seen so much grazing land.”

I won’t pronounce pro or con, but I’ll just confine myself to making a few remarks about the some of the technologies involved.

Irrigation: I would expect that drip irrigation or the like would be the best way to utilize the desalinated water.

Solar energy (cost and area): the deal breaker with solar energy is always the cost of providing an apparatus which covers a large area, has a high degree of ‘functionality’ and yet still covers a large area.

The apparatus has to be both durable enough to withstand freak weather conditions, and yet cheap enough (ergo, skimpy enough) not to break the bank.

So far, nobody has yet been able to make solar energy economically compete with conventional power.

Solar energy (fully tracking vs partial tracking vs non-tracking): the cheapest most efficient type of transformation of solar energy into other sorts of energy is by way of a very high temperature heat engine, something coming as close to the theoretical best Carnot efficiency as possible; this implies fully tracking collectors. From the little I read there, they were giving up too much by allowing efficiencies to fall to as low as 20%. If you’ve gone to the trouble of making huge areas of curved surfaces with an optical grade finish, you might as well go all the way and go for the highest temperature possible, which implies parabolic curvature and something like double-axis gimbals or a universal joint so as to achieve full-tracking.

Desalinization: people often don’t seem to take the studies in the past as seriously as they should with the result that they usually go into these projects wondering what desalinization technology is most efficient. When all of the technologies are compared, the clear winner is usually vapor-compression desalinization. The reason is that this essentially turns the whole project into a sort of ‘pumping’ operation, with the thermodynamic-mechanical output from the solar energy conversion being used as thermodynamically perfectly as possible. In addition, such an operation is fairly robust corrosion-wise and not so capitol intensive as others.

Often, people’s intuitively favorite ideas don’t turn out as well under close inspection: reverse osmosis, freezing, deionization, etc. All of these technologies are potentially theoretically perfectable, but it’s usually best to stick with vapors and gases as much as possible, whether in the conversion of solar to mechanical or mechanical to quasi-reversible low grade heat for desalinization. Those methods are the ones people have the most experience with and the ones they can bring closest to theoretical thermodynamic perfection.

Just my :twocents:

Pat, I think you have a far greater understanding of such matters than I do. :blush:

The Sahara Forest Project seems to use the “seawater greenhouse” method of desalination.

Based on a demonstration project in Oman, it estimates that it can desalinate 50 cubic meters of water per day per hectare. The electrical usage to pump the water into the greenhouse, and to run the ventilation fans to keep the plants cool, is said to be “modest”

But I have no way of evaluating their claims. :o

Let’s look at this a little more closely then.

And an Australian method is being integrated into the project:


Where did St. Augustine of Hippo live? North Africa!

The Sahara Desert was never the breadbasket of the Roman Empire, the breadbasket was North Africa especially Aegyptus and Africa

Exactly! I love how they use glass mirrors and lenses to concentrate the energy of the sun so that they do not need to use oil.
How it works…

The evaporators find their necessary power from Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) arrays stretched out across the landscape. Using mirrors to focus sunlight and heat liquid for steam production, CSP is viewed by many as the most viable source of renewable energy in the near term. It can be twice as efficient as photovoltaic panels in energy production as it uses the sun’s energy to create power. The system also produces a great deal of waste heat.

By themselves, these two systems are impressive technologies with a great deal of potential, but linked and integrated together, their possibilities rise exponentially. The excess heat of the CSP facilities can be captured through cogeneration and used for the desalination of more saltwater. The project team estimates that onsite power can desalinate 40 million cubic meters of water for terawatt-hour of harvested solar power—that is over 10.5 billion gallons. Strips of greenhouses can be arranged to shield the CSP mirror arrays and reduce dust and sand collection that lowers their efficiency. Three new export streams can emerge from each project location, all of which are in extreme demand around the globe: clean power, fresh water, fresh food.

Thank you for the link to the pdf. :thumbsup:

I took a look at it and, as I suspected, they are probably giving away area (and thus manufactured materials) in exchange for simplicity.

I don’t have huge experience, but I did operate a brine concentrator for a while as a lab technician. I could tell several stories about weird goings on there from various sorts of technologies being evaluated, from accidental releases of hydrogen cyanide:
One chemist to another: “What’s that smell?”
Second chemist: “I dunno . . . smells like almonds . . .”
First chemist: “Why do we have an almond smell? The only thing I know of that smells like almonds is hydrogen cyanide . . .”
Second chemist: “Do you think? . . . No! It couldn’t be! :eek: How could the concentrator being emitting hydrogen cyanide?! :eek:”
First: “I dunno, but I think we probably ought to evacuate the lab and then send someone back in with a gas mask to find out what in the heck is going on! :eek:”

Turns out it was an accidental chemical waste dump into the tanker truck sized lab sample. When they acidified the lab sample to lower the pH, they were well on their way to killing themselves. :rolleyes: to people getting their pupils fogged over (fortunately the fogging was reversible, and within a day or two was gone) with funny chemicals but, ultimately all of the attempts to substitute something for vapor compression or similar processes went awry.

I’ve also read quite a bit about solar technologies and about desalinization in the past, and even attempted to come up with inventions and original designs. Still, after everything I researched, I came away with the impression that things like vapor compression are the best.

If I were doing it just for me, I would be doing it on a small scale and I’d probably use water and steam on the actual desalinization side and a low boiling point fluid like propane, butane or methyl acetate* on the vapor compression side in the interest of having vapor boiling and condensation at reasonable densities and pressures. I’d have a countercurrent heat exchanger to reversibly warm up and cool down the sea water and use the high pressures of the low boiling point fluid to allow for a piston compressor rather than a turbine or centrifugal pump so as to keep both the size and design complexity of the apparatus to a minimum.

In big industrial outfits, they do a lot less counter-flow heat exchanging and do away with a secondary fluid altogether by using a specially designed vapor turbine to compress the steam and use it to boil the brine.

And that’s where the brine concentrator I used to take data from came in, so we could see whether or not the pipes would get encrusted with salt precipitates and the like, and if they did, to experiment with salt nucleation chemicals to force the salt to preferentially precipitate out on the ‘nucleation dust’ or powder rather than to scale the inside of the stainless tubes.

This last, the powder precipitation, is one of the things that made it so robust, because the number of cheap chemicals that you can use to attempt that is huge, and you can almost always find something. Also, stainless steel resists corrosion of these mildly corrosive brines and other solutions (like black liquor from pulp mills – concentrating the black liquor actually results in a fuel you can use to help power the wood processing).

Once you find the right combination of chemicals and pipe materials and sizes, the only thing that really gets chewed up are the brine pumps, because they’ve always got a lot of chemical ‘precipitation grit’ in the fluid they pump; but mechanical pumps are cheap, even when the amount of water distilled is large. And when they wear out, they just get replaced and either recycled for their metal or thrown away.

Nothing else seems as simple, versatile, efficient, thermodynamically and chemically perfectible, and compact, or at least that’s how it seems to me.


*Of all the ones I researched, I liked acetone and methyl acetate the best, for their reasonable atmospheric boiling points. If you pushed the pressure up on them a bit, you could operate the brine side at very close to atmospheric pressure and 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

I just ran into a fascinating prophecy apparently from the Prophet Mohammed himself (peace be upon him)…that may well set the stage for an entirely new type of relationship between the Islamic nations and the western democracies…

Here is some background information though from a woman who is either Charismatic Catholic or evangelical Christian:

Mary Burris from the group Power Packed Prayers:
Mary A Buris:

"February 6, 2009

While spending time with the Lord He reminded me of Ali’s funeral (Ali was my first husband who was murdered in 94/95) and how the Holy Spirit had me praying in tongues and in travail for the muslim people’s salvation in Christ Jesus.

He assured me that He heard my prayer that day. Suddenly I became very excited in my spirit and asked the Holy Spirit

“What’s going on?”

This is what He said:

You’ll see… It’ll be explosive when it happens. They will flock towards salvation as the hardness is lifted off of their hearts and the scales are removed from their eyes. They are a passionate people but their purpose has not yet been served. Upon the fulfillment of their role in the history of mankind there will be a flood of souls pouring into the kingdom of God for His glory. They have been scorned, they have been accused, but the ones who are pure in heart shall see God. When He reveals Himself to them in all His glory they will prostrate themselves before Him in a way they have never done before. When He opens the eyes of their understanding and unstops their ears to hear what His Holy Spirit is revealing the waves of tears of repentance will flood the ground they occupy and they will be purged once and for all time of the stains of their unbelief. The Lord is calling out for a pure and holy nation before God and He will do as He chooses and choose as He pleases and mankind will truly stand in awe of His mighty Majesty and Splendor as the precious souls are ushered into His kingdom.


This message posted to an Islamic group February 27, 2012 at 5:42am has the potential to utterly transform the relationship between the Islamic world and the western democratic nations!

"scientific miracles of islam
Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) spoke very carefully about a scientific fact realized by scientists few years ago. He said ( God will not held day of resurrection unless Arab land returns greens and rivers again ) [Narrated by Muslim.]

scientifically, it was proved that one day the Arabian peninsula was full of greens and rivers as satellite photos confirm that there are buried rivers under the sand of Arab land , one of the great scientists of the American space agency (NASA) says that the taken photos for the desert had shown that one day this area was covered with rivers and lakes like Europe and one day in the future it will back again like the past."

Good point Dakota Roberts!

I did a bit of reading regarding Tunisia and Morocco both being termed part of the Breadbasket of the Roman Empire for a time.

Maybe this bit from my “Gardens of Their Dreams” is complimentary to Jared Diamond’s new book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”:

"The Romans saw themselves as developers of agriculture in Africa, and this was not entirely self-delusion. When the Roman troops were not fighting Africans, they built viaducts or storage tanks. Their works tended to divert water away from native farmlands, towards the Roman towns and plantations. When the Roman soldiers retired, the government gave them generous grants of African land. This too was development, because it employed Roman citizens. Besides, soldiers tired of war often made good gardeners. They industriously terraced the wadi beds or built catchment walls, allowing increased rain-fed farming. Many of their workers were poorly paid natives, who previously owned the land. The Roman methods of contouring fields to retain scarce rainfall were basically copied from the ancient North African jessour gardens.

The Romans, however, did not measure the success of their colonies by improvements to the land. For Rome, development in Africa meant increased supplies to the imperial center, ever more land awarded to successive generations of army veterans, and larger estates for Senators. By the first century CE, Rome was milking Africa for half a million tons of grain a year. Presiding over this enterprise were the Roman urbanites, residing in some 600 towns or full-blown cities. Leptis Magna, Tripolitania or Sufetula each housed 50,000 to 100,000 people. That was about the height of ancient development. Within a few centuries there would be scarcely one town between Libya and Morocco.

When the Roman plantations expanded into ever more marginal lands, numerous displaced African farmers tried to cultivate the semi-desert. These in turn pushed the pastoralists to the borders of the Sahara, where their hungry animals stripped the desert’s edge. Abdallah Laroui feels that the bulk of the North African Maghreb’s population was “renomadized,” in “an involuntary return to proto-history.” The Roman walls against the nomads were “not so much a boundary of civilization as a … frontier between the dispossessed, who were thrust out into the desert, and the needed workers, who were enslaved and crushed with taxes.”

The Berbers found themselves caught between the advancing Sahara and the Roman legions. The desert, however, was harder to beat than the Romans. By sheer necessity, a Berber counterattack grew in strength on the empire’s most desolate margin. First, nomad raids forced the Romans to build walls around their watered towns and estates. Then in 290 CE, the Romans made a major retreat, abandoning about a third of their former territory. They fell back to more defensible perimeters and gave up trying to dominate the pre-Sahara.

This reminds me of an article I read back in the 1990’s stating that much of the farm land of America is becoming sterile. The beneficial bacteria, the humus in the soil is being killed by the usage of so much chemical fertilizer, chemical herbicide, fungicide and pesticide. One of the only substances that can restore the humus is cow manure!

Dr. Hugh Ross shares ideas on how to combat climate change that I had never previously heard about!

This man’s synaptic pathways have serious glial cells!!!

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