Garages on the outskirts of the city will house cars and light rail transportation will ferry commuters to their jobs in Masdar. There will be solar thermal farms to supply about “a quarter” of the needed electricity, Loffe goes on. The city of Masdar is proposed to accommodate up to 50,000 permanent residents and jobs within the city will be provided for about 40,000 commuters. How hot will it be in the city? The energy planners assert it will be “20 degrees cooler than the surrounding desert” and moreover, the city will use 60% less water (the water will come from desalination plants that are solar powered), 75% les electricity, and 98% less landfill space (Loffe, 2009, p. 2).
How much does it cost for a person / family to go solar, and do their own personal energy planning on their rooftop? An article in Money magazine (Hely, 2011, p. 50) explains that “it is definitely time to consider harvesting the sunshine hitting your roof” for people in Australia. In the northern and western states of Australia there is an average of 5.8 hours of sunlight daily, Hely writes, which is important for people doing their own energy planning because using solar photovoltaic energy (sunlight hits silicon solar cells and turns it into direct electrical current) means a big savings in Australia.
Why? Energy costs are expected to rise by 40% over the next three years, Hely explains, due to the $100 billion the government must spend to “replace ageing infrastructure so it keeps up with peak demand” (p. 50). For Aussies that live in NSW or in Queensland, energy bills could rise by as much as 66%; moreover, Australia is expected to consume 50% more electricity in the next 20 years, and those who do their own energy planning will be able to opt out of those unpleasant jumps in energy bills by using solar. Is it financially practical to make the investment — in other words, how long after the initial investment does it to recoup the costs? In Australia, depending on how much one spends on the solar, it takes up to nine years to recoup the investment, but only three to six in certain parts of Australia where the cost of buying electricity from the local utility is very high, Hely explains.
Meanwhile, in the Journal of the American Planning Association, an article points out that while a generation ago energy planner sited centralized energy supply infrastructure including “power plants, electric transmission lines, refineries, and pipelines” (Andrews, 2008, p. 231). Recently, however, the attention among energy planners has shifted to “decentralized supplies, and the effects of transportation, land use, and buildings on energy demand,” Andrews explains. Andrews, associate professor and director of the urban planning program at Rutgers University, suggests that “rather than merely satisfying the demand for energy,” planners should use both “demand management and supply procurement tools to equilibrate demand and supply” (p. 232).
In other words, Andrews is challenging engineers and planners to work towards a “reduction in cost per unit obtained by producing many units” of decentralized energy producers (solar, wind, etc.). Many mall decentralized facilities would be built, under Andrews energy plan, and the goal would be not only getting away from importing oil, but rather it would be to promote efficiency, equity, and stability in order to eschew “volatile energy prices, fluctuating demand,” and the inevitable carbon emissions that come with the burning of fossil fuel.
It is time for energy planning to move quickly towards the future, by following the advice of experts like Clinton J. Andrews and others, and building products that are decentralized and allow a home anywhere there is ample sunlight — and/or wind — to be free of the high costs of energy produced in huge, polluting centralized energy production facilities. The obstacles can be overcome by careful planning and by not necessarily thinking big solar farm in the desert but rather decentralized solar hardware for individual rooftops. That is real smart energy planning.
Andrews, Clinton J. (2008). Energy Conversion Goes Local. Journal of the American Planning
Association, 74(2), 231-253.
Hely, Susan. (2011). Let the SUN Shine in! Money. Issue 132, 50-52.
Loffe, Julia. (2009). A Green City Blooms in the Desert..