Trump Has A Bizarre New Idea For His US-Mexico Border Wall


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Clean energy is great but an expensive border wall is still a stupid idea. Succo Design/Shutterstock

We don’t know if you’ve heard, but Trump has a distaste for clean energy roughly on the same scale that he is obsessed with his border wall.

That’s why it’s a little odd that he is considering lining the US-Mexico edifice with solar panels. He made the remarks during a closed-door session with Republican legislative leaders yesterday, but it was suggested that the President wanted the solar panels to fund the wall.


There is quite a lot to unpack here. Firstly, Trump just pulled out of the Paris agreement, which in effect was a huge middle finger to the renewable energy sector – as well as international diplomacy and cooperation, of course.

Rather bizarrely, this is also the first time the President has expressed any interest in solar power.

Are the solar panels designed to be a response to the global reaction to the Paris withdrawal decision? Is it an attempt to win over environmentalists? Considering that those that align with these causes tend to oppose Trump and his wall, it’s not likely.

He has also repeatedly claimed that Mexico will pay for the wall, immortalized in a series of unbearably nationalistic chants at his campaign rallies. Is solar power the new Mexico?


House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was part of the meeting, told reporters that “the president is committed to building the wall and securing our border and I commend him for it.” He then added that the wall “would actually function as a solar panel to ultimately pay for itself.”

Don’t get us wrong: clean energy is great. It’s cheap, effective and has an extremely low carbon footprint. Solar panels on the wall could make sure the watchtowers could be powered – although without a proper battery storage system, nighttime electricity might get a little tricky.

The rest of the wall probably doesn’t need solar power, to be honest. We’re not sure if you’ve noticed, but walls don’t tend to need powering much.

The solar panels wouldn’t even be that effective on a wall, anyway. They need to be continuously angled to face the path of the moving Sun, and this is not really possible on a wall. Even with these photovoltaic panels everywhere, it’s unlikely they’ll pay for the $21.6 billion wall in its entirety.


It appears the President may have stolen the idea for a solar-powered border wall from one Tom Gleason, a construction-materials supplier out of Las Vegas.

Proposing his idea earlier this year, Gleason claimed that his idea would cost $6 million per mile to build, would generate 2 megawatts of electricity per hour and will pay for itself in 20 years. This would increase the cost of the 3,200-kilometer-long (2,000 miles) wall to at least $33.6 billion.

Good luck getting Congress to sign off on that one, Donald.


In any case, the solar power option doesn’t cover up the fact that most Americans resent the idea of the border wall being built in the first place. Several recent polls note that 60-62 percent of the public do not want the wall to be funded, the same proportion of the US that thought exiting the Paris agreement was a stupid decision.


However, 76 percent of those that voted for Trump do support building the wall, and it’s clear that this is who Trump is targeting – a demographic that was, and is, unequivocally uninterested in clean energy.

You can’t just put solar panels on a terrible idea and make it good. What’s next, Medicaid cuts powered by wind turbines? Steve Bannon fueled by hydroelectricity?

[H/T: Politico]


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  • Who'se gonna pay for the wall? Solar panels!