Trump gets excited about solar – to help pay for Mexico border wall

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Trump floats vision of 40-50 feet high Mexico-US border walls, covered with solar panels so they’d be “beautiful structures.”

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Yosemite National Park: July 25, 2011 Coverage of El Portal SolarWorld installation. Photo by Al GOLUB/Golub Photography.Largest solar project in a national park, Yosemite, features SolarWorld solar panels in three formats HILLSBORO, Ore., July 27, 2011 – The new largest solar installation in a U.S. national park features high-performance solar panels from SolarWorld, the largest U.S. photovoltaic manufacturer for more than 35 years, in roof-mount, parking-canopy and wall-mount systems at Yosemite National Park. The installation, dedicated today in a ceremony at the El Portal Administrative Complex in the 1,189-square-mile park, marks an advance in self-sufficiency and sustainability for the treasured wilderness reserve in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Showcasing the work of U.S. tradesmen and factories, the 672-kilowatt project at the park’s administrative and maintenance center comprises a 500-kilowatt parking canopy offering cover for center employees and visitors; a 100-kilowatt roof-mount system atop a warehouse; and a 72-kilowatt system on a sloped wall of an office building. Each is composed of SolarWorld 240-watt mono-crystalline silicon solar panels made in Hillsboro, Ore., site of the company’s U.S. headquarters, and Camarillo, Calif., home of the longest-running U.S. solar factory. The park estimates the solar installation will supply about 12 percent of the park’s total power consumption. “The combination of harnessing California’s abundant sunlight and technology and labor provided by U.S. workers ideally suits this energy advance for Yosemite National Park,” Superintendent Don Neubacher said. “Solar panels from SolarWorld, along with the contributions of a number of other U.S.-based service firms and manufacturing enterprises, will maximize the sustainable impact on this effort to not only take care of the park but stretch the planet’s resources.” SolarWorld authorized installer Suntrek Industries Inc., based in Irvine, Calif., undertook the installation along the scenic Merced River. The park is known for granite formations, such as Half Dome and El Capitan, that legendary photographer Ansel Adams indelibly captured. “This project was about protecting an amazing national park,” said Alex Smith, project manager for Suntrek. “What better way to protect the park than with solar energy?” Kevin Kilkelly, president of SolarWorld Americas, said the company, many of whose U.S. employees date back to the early years of domestic solar manufacturing, couldn’t be prouder to supply solar panels to help operate a jewel in the crown of the U.S. park system. “This project will go down as a magical milestone for us,” Kilkelly said. The project’s $5.8 million total cost was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
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US President Donald Trump has reportedly flagged the possibility that his administration’s proposed border wall between Mexico and America could be fitted with solar panels, to help pay for the construction of the controversial structure – and perhaps even help make it less of an unpalatable symbol of aggressive nationalism.

Reports emerged on Wednesday morning, Australian time, that Trump had used part of his Tuesday meeting with Republican Congressional leaders to discuss the idea of the wall being covered in solar panels and the electricity generated used to pay for the cost.

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Source: Jigar Shah, LinkedIn

According to reports from “sources close to the matter”, Trump told the meeting that his vision was of 40-50 feet high walls, covered with solar panels so they’d be “beautiful structures.”

The AXIOS report also claims that Trump told the lawmakers they could talk about the solar-paneled wall concept… as long as they said it was his idea.

But, of course, it wasn’t.

Whose idea was it? We can’t say for certain. But idea of using a solar structure to mark the borders between Mexico and the US has been around for some time now, as a Twitter #solarwall search will quickly reveal.

As well as being Tweeted countless times – often along the lines of “If you must build a wall, at least make it solar” – the concept of a solar border or wall has also been proposed through a number of published op-ed pieces, and in project tenders sent direct to the White House, in response to its request for design ideas earlier this year.

One op-ed, published on Huffington Post in December 2016, suggests the solar border could be “constructed exclusively on the Mexican side,” where the solar resource is superior, and where construction and maintenance costs are substantially lower.

“Thus, building a long series of such plants all along the Mexican side of the border could power cities on both sides faster and more cheaply than similar arrays built north of the border,” the article says.

Another op-ed on the subject, published in January by clean tech investment guru Jigar Shah on LinkedIn, suggested Trump’ “huge wall” could accommodate almost 5GW of solar and produce more than 6,600,000,000 kilowatt-hours.

“At about six (6) cents per kilowatt-hour (typical cost of electricity from natural gas and coal plants in the USA) the electricity would be worth about $396,000,000 per year,” Shah wrote.

“Over the 40 year life of the solar panels, the solar panels would collect over $15,840,000,000 – not counting the tax credits already in place for solar, low cost debt from the North American Development Bank or escalating value of daytime power in Mexico.”

And in a third op-ed, this one penned by two US academics, it is estimated that three rows of PV panels atop the border wall would cost $US3 billion, “while producing some 8GWh annually.”

On top of all that, there is also a Change-org petition – called “Make the border wall out of solar panels” – that was started up 7 months ago, which suggests power generated by the border panels could be leased to solar utilities, and/or sold to the Mexican and American grids to pay for its construction. Readers may or may not wish to sign it!

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8 Comments
  1. wmh 2 years ago

    The US-Mexican border is not further north latitude than Sydney is south latitude and vertical solar panels make sense in Sydney as they produce only slightly less power in mid-winter than panels at the latitude angle. Mid winter is the crucial time for solar production as this is when heating loads are highest and solar irradiance is lowest. (Actually about 70 degrees is about optimum for June in Sydney).

    Of course these panels will need to be placed on the southern (Mexican) side of the wall and hence available to any light fingered Mexicans. The alternative of the northern side would produce less (non-zero due to diffuse sky illumination) power but would be subject to the predations of those with a dislike of Trump.

    I am looking forward to a solar powered Mexico but perhaps not quite in the way that is envisioned.

    • Chris Fraser 2 years ago

      They could install lots of wind turbines instead and send Smokin’ Joe screaming back to Australia.

  2. Nan 2 years ago

    I first came apon the idea of a solar wall from a report last year in which a Mexican company proposed building a solar wall and paying for it themselves by selling the electricity in Mexico and the southern US states. So it’s not a new idea, and it’s not Trump’s idea.

  3. Mark Fowler 2 years ago

    While I passionately believe in renewable energy, if I was Mexican I would cover the panels in mud, paint or anything to make it unworkable – the solar panels will face into Mexico.

  4. My_Oath 2 years ago

    Everything south of the wall will be Mexico, so Drumpf will have to put all his shiny panels on the north-facing wall. Ooops.

    • phred01 2 years ago

      Even if the panels are positioned on the Mexican side to get a max o/p the slope would have be equal to the latitude -10 that makes the slope 18 deg. @ that angle it would be easy to scale the wall

  5. phred01 2 years ago

    typical dumf thought bubble

  6. Brunel 2 years ago

    There is no such thing as “Australian time”. Just use UTC.

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