President Trump held a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa yesterday to talk about agriculture. During the rally, he mentioned his new plan for the supposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border: Build it with solar panels!
Here is what Trump said:
You know, people don’t realize we’re already spending a lot of money on design, but I’ll give you an idea that nobody has heard about yet. And I’m not sure, but I’m a builder. That’s what I love to do. That’s probably what I do best. I’m a builder, and we’re thinking of something that’s unique. We’re talking about the southern border: lots of sun, lots of heat. We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall, so it creates energy and pays for itself. And this way, Mexico will have to pay much less money, and that’s good, right?
Watch Trump’s announcement below:
While Trump said that he was giving an idea that nobody heard before hand, the solar wall plan was discussed in a Wall Street Journal article penned by Vasilis Fthenakis and Ken Zweibel, who are professor at Columbia University and George Washington University respectively. Both authors articulated a theory that two more professors, named Homero Aridjis and James Ramey, discussed in a Huffington Post article last December. Here is what Fthenakis and Zweibel wrote:
Why build in Mexico? Lower costs south of the border would greatly reduce the overall price tag. We estimate that building a roughly 2,000-mile-long single-row solar wall would cost less than $1 billion, plus site preparation costs such as fencing and road construction. Compare that with Mr. Trump’s wall, which could cost tens of billions of dollars.
Mexico’s solar-power potential also ranks among the highest on the planet. As Messrs. Aridjis and Ramey point out, its high central plateau deserts have a “dry, unclouded, low-latitude and relatively cool climate” that is perfect for photovoltaics. We calculate that one string of solar panels would have a power capacity of 0.8 gigawatts and could produce about 2,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year. Add three rows in parallel, and that would cost $3 billion while producing some 8,000 gigawatt-hours annually.
According to their research, it would not only be economically plausible to create a solar wall but it would also create considerable electrical energy that would limit the use of coal to keep electricity going both in the United States and Mexico. However, Trump’s suggested solar wall does not have a price tag at this moment and it would likely face scrutiny from Democrats who have, ironically, stonewalled budget allocations for the wall since Trump assumed the Presidency.
Trump likely chose this time to announce the solar wall following the significant backlash he received for withdrawing from the Paris Accords on June 2. As of today, few Democrats have mentioned their thoughts on the solar wall.