Friendship Solar Array Project



Started:†††††††††††††††††††††† June 6, 2006††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† by Ken Clements

Last Update:†††††††††††††† August 9, 2006 Rev. 2.7††††††††††††††††††††† FAQGetting Started

Distribution:††††††††††††††† Wide and Free, please link to this page

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Basic Idea:Instead of building a wall or fence on the USA-Mexico border just for security purposes, a solar array structure can be built that also provides electric power to the region and helps raise the standard of living. [7/29/06 Note: James Corner published a similar idea approached from architecture.]




Throughout history, extensive border security projects have proven to be short-term solutions at best.All have ended up as long lines of decaying fences, walls or worse.There is a current push in the USA to build such a fence on the border with Mexico, which extends for about two thousand miles from California to Texas.Canít we do better?What if the USA and Mexico joined together to build a solar electric power array across the accessible sections of the border, so that security could be increased while providing economic benefits to both sides?


If one thousand miles of border had solar panels arrayed 30 feet wide, that would be 1000 miles x 5280 ft/mile x 30 ft =158,400,000 sqft.One meter is 3.2808 ft so 1000W/sqm (at peak sun) is 92.905W/sqft.Thus peak sun power for a 1000 mile array is 14,716,200,000 Watts.If the final photovoltaic (sunlight to electricity) conversion was a conservative 10%, this would result in peak electric power of 1,471,620,000 Watts or 1,472 Megawatts, enough to power at least 150,000 homes.In the summer, many areas of the border have strong sunlight in excess of 8 hours per day, just when the need for peak power is greatest.This is a large enough array to get the desired economy of scale. The central object of the project is to provide enough power to pay for itself, not to solve the national energy problem. But this can be one of many small steps.As more power is desired, the array can be made wider.


Christo wrapped the landscape in sheets of cloth for art; how much better to wrap the landscape between two great nations with high tech art of friendship that helps all.





        Promotes friendship between the people of the USA and Mexico.


        Pays for its own maintenance.


        Pays for its own security.


        Provides jobs along the border.


        Reduces carbon emissions for replacement power sources.


        Prevents loss of life during illegal border crossing attempts.


        Economy of scale drives down the cost of solar panels for the general public.






Solar Power Plant News:,2782,69528,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1


Typical home solar panel system information:


See California power plant megawatt scale spreadsheet.




Water Connection:


The deployment of the Friendship Solar Array could promote many other developments, made possible by the existence of the structure and its access roads.The most compelling of these, addresses the desperate need to increase the availability of water.Part of the current project is to produce proposals for the use of distributed Solar Desalination technology, combined with a pipeline along the Array, to bring water from the Gulf of California into Southern California, Southern Arizona, and Northern Mexico.Progress on this subject will be linked to this page as it is available. ( Also, see applicable progress in Solar Powered Reverse-Osmosis, Solar Sterling Engines,Clean process at Xerox PARC , Sonoma County and Nevada LVWD.)



Frequently Asked Questions:


Q:††††††††††††† Wouldnít it be better to build a big square solar plant in an accessible part of the desert?

A:†††††††††††††† For electricity, yes.This plan gets its economic leverage when the cost of a border fence is saved.


Q:††††††††††††† How could so many solar panels be made at a reasonable cost and production rate?

A:†††††††††††††† Cost is dropping fast, new technology is emerging (spray-on), and very large scale production techniques are coming on line.


Q:††††††††††††† Wonít folks just climb over it?

A:†††††††††††††† Not often.Good architecture can make the Array beautiful and safe.It is envisioned that the lowest side would be high off the ground to start (see parking cover).Also, it would be patrolled, and other protection would keep climbers away from the power transmission lines.


Q:††††††††††††† Isnít this a target for terrorists?

A:†††††††††††††† The long distributed nature of the Array gives it protection that no concentrated power plant can match.It is just too big to attack everywhere.Damage to small sections can be automatically switched around.


Q:††††††††††††† Beyond terrorists, isnít it unrealistic to expect this to be free from theft and vandalism?

A:†††††††††††††† Yes, realistically there will be theft and vandalism just as we have now for the existing utility systems.However, the design can reduce the opportunity, and some sections will be large trough technology.If this were just a fence, it would be a significant cost.In this case, the community good will and economy of operation would provide a disincentive for damage, and also provide the continuing funding for monitoring and repair.


Q:††††††††††††† Isnít desert ecology fragile?What would this do to the environment?

A:†††††††††††††† Yes, the desert is fragile.If a fence is going to be built, it is better that it have economic value to invest in its ecology.


Q:††††††††††††† Wonít the dark surface of the array absorb more heat from the sun and make the earth warmer?

A:†††††††††††††† With proper architecture, the array would also include reflective surfaces to balance back to the normal absorption.However, this is a small impact when compared to the bigger impact of lower carbon dioxide production.


Q:††††††††††††† One-size-fits-all-solutions never work; how can the same design work in so many different areas?

A:†††††††††††††† One size will not fit all.This project will be in sections.There can be local design contests for each of the sections, both in technology and architecture.In some places, concentrating technology (also see Fresnel) may be better than photovoltaic panels.The nature of the application will cause engineers and architects to look at things in a new way.


Getting Started --- San Diego-Tijuana Demo Array:


As a result of the current construction of a double fence section between the cities of San Diego California and Tijuana Mexico, there are several barren strips of land of varying widths that extend for miles.This secure area could provide the location for one or more demo installations.Some sections could be conventional arrays, while others could test out new concentrating photovoltaic technology, and still others could be devoted to Fresnel reflector trough technology and water purification. (See the PV example put up in the San Diego Naval base, and Pearl Harbor.)