The green vision of Masdar has captivated TreeHugger since it was first proposed back in 2008. It was to be an eco-town of 47,500 people, totally carbon neutral, zero waste and car free. April gushed that electricity will come from photvoltaic panels, cooling from concentrated solar power, water from a solar-powered desalination plant, and landscaping irrigated with city gray water. Sound utopic? Brian Merchant visited it in 2011 and called it "the enigmatic, controversial, and pioneering ultra-low carbon city." He concluded by calling it "a first class experiment; or it will be as soon as more of the tenants move in."
Alas, it appears that the experiment has not been a success. Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian writes how Masdar's zero-carbon dream could become world’s first green ghost town:
Years from now passing travellers may marvel at the grandeur and the folly of the futuristic landscape on the edges of Abu Dhabi: the barely occupied office block, the deserted streets, the vast tracts of undeveloped land and – most of all – the abandoned dream of a zero-carbon city.
That may be an exaggeration, but not much of one. It was a glorious dream, designed by Foster and Partners, but less than 5 percent of it has been built, and it is barely inhabited. Only 2,000 people work there, and the live-in population is just 300, all graduate students at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.
And the rationale for Masdar City – demonstrating a model of green living – has been abandoned. “The original aim was to be net zero, yes, but that was when we were looking at the city in isolation,” [Manager Chris] Wan said.
Now they say they are looking at a bigger picture.
Crews broke ground in 2008, but plans withered in the global economic recession which soon followed when investors put their green dreams on hold. “A lot of the people who were considering investing in Masdar City decided to take a breather,” Wan said.
In 2009 Jesse Fox wrote in these pages that Masdar "will serve as an incubator for the next generation of sustainable technology breakthroughs, transform the supply chain and change the way we look at cities on a global level." Alas, it was not to be.