I know you can never bank on these things until they’re completed, but if this goes as planned it sure will be righteously cool:

Groundbreaking is scheduled for Saturday for Masdar City, a nearly self-contained mini-municipality designed for up to 50,000 people rising from the desert next to Abu Dhabi’s international airport and intended as a hub for academic and corporate research on nonpolluting energy technologies.

The 2.3-square-mile community, set behind walls to divert hot desert winds and airport noise, will be car free, according to the design by Foster + Partners, the London firm that has become a leading practitioner of energy-saving architecture.

The community, slightly smaller than the historic district of Venice, will have similar narrow pedestrian streets, but shaded by canopies made of photovoltaic panels. It will produce all of its own energy from sunlight.

Water will flow from a solar-powered seawater-desalinization plant. Produce will come from nearby greenhouses, and all waste will be composted or otherwise recycled, said Khaled Awad, property manager for the project.

Sure it’s a bubble made by and for rich people, paid for with blood oil money, but at this point I’ll take successful existence proofs wherever I can find them. Revkin’s accompanying blog post has a simulated tour of the city and some additional details:

The community and the research institute at its core are part of a $15-billion advanced-energy initiative rolled out over the past two years by the government of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. There’s added cash coming from outside investors under the "clean development mechanism" of the Kyoto Protocol, which allows industrialized countries to get credit toward their greenhouse-gas targets by paying for non-polluting development projects in developing countries (the Emirates included).

Sultan Al Jaber, the chief executive officer of the overarching Masdar Initiative, told me that the goal is to use the wealth accrued over a half century of oil extraction to help shift the economy slowly toward exporting renewable or non-polluting energy technology.

Why does the UAE get one of these and we don’t?