Since making his initial promises of a border wall on the campaign trail in 2015, United States President Donald Trump has been pushed to back down on the word “wall”. In the past year we’ve hear fence, barrier, and other fuzzier terms, but the one constant is that Trump wants some sort of physical buffer between the U.S. and Mexico, and he wants it now.
So far, the fight over the wall has led to heated debate, a highly controversial declaration of national emergency, and even the longest U.S. government shutdown in the nation’s history. While politicians fight over the terms and the funding of the wall/fence/barrier and constituents remain highly divided on the issue, some factions of the scientific community are getting down to business.
A nationwide team of 28 engineers and scientists have put together a radical and potentially viable plan that could, amazingly, please anti-immigration hawks and bleeding-heart liberals alike: an energy park spanning all 1,954 miles of the border between the United States and Mexico. The consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed the plan (still in its early stages) with the consideration that the development would benefit both the United States and Mexico alike, making it a realistic possibility for the two nations to work together to build the massive-scale industrial park.
Luciano Castillo, Consortium Lead and Purdue University professor of renewable energy and power systems, says of the project: “This is a different kind of initiative that will solve many existing challenges while bringing people together. It will bring energy, water and education to create more opportunities for the USA and Mexico.”
The park, as designed, would be made up of vast swaths of renewable energy farms and facilities, including solar, wind, natural gas pipelines, and even desalination facilities, providing huge quantities of clean, renewable energy and clean water to the parched and largely desolate region, not to mention massive jobs creation and border security to boot.
The massive project would go hand in hand with border security concerns, as infrastructure of such size and value would need considerable amounts of security itself. More developed plans for the energy park will take into account a need for a security system that would include various layers of fencing, electronic sensors, and even drone surveillance. While there would still be openings for wildlife to migrate–an essential component for the ecological health of the region–officials would be immediately aware of any human border crossings.
The plan would not only meet a lot of border security needs, it would also revitalize the economy in a largely underdeveloped part of both the U.S. and Mexico, all while providing clean water and energy to a drought-prone region.
The plan is still very much in its early stages of development, with the spokespeople from the consortium calling for collaboration, participation and innovation from U.S. and Mexican universities, industries and laboratories to contribute their technical expertise to the cause. That being said, it’s not so far-fetched of a pipe dream as it sounds. Even under Trump, no friend to solar, ideas like the energy corridor have been bounced around before as viable options–Trump himself even talked about building a solar border wall in 2017.
In a Purdue press release from last month, Castillo goes on to compare his consortium’s ambitious industrial park plan to one of the nation’s most historically salient infrastructural developments, saying, “Just like the transcontinental railroad transformed the United States in the 19th century, or the Interstate system transformed the 20th century, this would be a national infrastructure project for the 21st century. It would do for the Southwest what the Tennessee Valley Authority has done for the Southeast over the last several decades.”