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.
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.
— off grid innovations (@OG_innovations) February 1, 2017
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.
Looks like Trump read my Linkedin piece…
“President Donald Trump floated putting solar panels on his planned Mexi…https://t.co/ecMyWYwv7k
— Jigar Shah (@JigarShahDC) June 7, 2017
“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.”
— Peter Johnson (@peterj08) March 8, 2017
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!