19 Jun

Map of the Week: Proposed Energy Corridor Along U.S.-Mexico Border

By Caroline Stern

A proposal was sent out by a group of 28 engineers and scientists from across the country to build an energy corridor comprised of “a complex train of solar energy panels, wind turbines, natural gas pipelines, desalination facilities” along the 1,954-mile-long border between Mexico and the United States. While some say it is unfeasible, the leader of the consortium, Professor Luciano Castillo of Purdue University, is more optimistic. The group’s goal is to produce clean energy while providing new jobs, water, and security to areas along the border. Rather than tackling the controversy surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border through policy changes, these researchers are interested in harnessing the region’s potential to create a more amicably sustained relationship between the two countries.  

According to the researchers, the border region’s environmental conditions make it an ideal site for renewable energy infrastructure. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported that “the strong winds at the Texas Gulf Coast and the Baja California regions are ideal for wind farms.” Additionally, researchers found that five solar panels in the Mexican state of Chihuahua could produce as much energy as the hydroelectric power along the Canada-U.S. border, which includes Niagara Falls.

Some engineers say this could be a major infrastructure project in the context of the 21st century as a whole. Ronald Adrian, Regent’s Professor at Arizona State University and a member of the National Academy of Engineering believes, “the cost of providing basic, essential infrastructure to the border lands is tiny compared to the opportunities it creates.” The corridor can transform the border into a high-tech, well-secured zone through fencing, electronic sensors, and surveillance drones. These precautions make it easier for wildlife to migrate, but still alert officials to anyone moving through the area illegally. To spur the creation of jobs, researchers also propose “energy security institute” campuses where locals can learn the necessary skills to work in infrastructure industries.

However, the project still has to grapple with a host of environmental and legal complications. Landowners will most likely be unhappy giving over their  property to the federal government, and the sheer size of the project could permanently damage sensitive ecosystems. Part of the proposal’s argument is that the land is empty and, yes, some sections would be perfect for this type of project, but a corridor encompassing the entire border could be asking for too much. There are large towns such as El Paso, Nogales, and Tijuana. There are also small unincorporated towns called colonias that may benefit from the new onset of jobs and infrastructure; however, no one has asked them what they may need or want.

Sources: 1, 2, 3