Bill Gates just plopped down 80 million bucks to buy 25,000 acres of desert west of Phoenix to build a "smart city" to be called Belmont. According to his development partners, quoted in Popular Mechanics,
A new freeway is being built that will connect to Las Vegas, making it "an ideal spot for a new community." The developer notes that "Comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Arizona, Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model."
Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs.
No doubt it will be a fascinating infrastructure model, given that the two elements of infrastructure that a city needs most are electric power, most of which comes from fossil fuels in Arizona, and water, most of which comes from Colorado. Solar panels can handle the former, but what about the latter?
Then there is the small matter of climate change and rising temperatures in the area. According to meteorologist Eric Holthaus, Phoenix is "currently the fastest warming big city in the US", and it is estimated that by 2050 it will be uninhabitable. From Vice:
A study from Climate Central last year projects that Phoenix's summer weather will be on average three to five degrees hotter by 2050. Meanwhile, that average number of 100-degree days will have skyrocketed by almost 40, to 132, according to another 2016 Climate Central study. (For reference, over a comparable period, New York City is expected to go from two to 15 100-degree days.)
According to Steve Hanley in TriplePundit, in the face of rising temperatures and shrinking water supplies,
Phoenix is a cautionary tale for why rational people should begin planning now for the effects of climate change. But will they? If past history is any guide, the prospects for such appropriate decision making are dim and getting fainter by the day.
Bill Gates is a smart guy. But is building a new city in the middle of the Arizona desert in the 21st century sensible? And look at this rendering, a screen shot from the news video. This ain't no Arcosanti, designed for the Arizona climate; it looks like every suburb in the USA. I do hope that this is just the developer's pitch and not a serious architectural proposal.
It is obviously early stages for this, but Arizona seems like a dumb place to build a smart city.