When President Trump said last week that the U.S. would continue to be “the cleanest” country on Earth despite pulling out of the Paris climate accord, building a solar-paneled border wall probably wasn't what most people had in mind. But, apparently, that could be part of his plan.
Axios reported today that Trump pitched Republican Congressional leaders on building a border wall covered in solar panels, and to use the electricity generated to cover the costs.
Trump envisions constructing 40-foot to 50-foot high barriers, with solar installed all over, so they would be “beautiful structures,” according to three people with direct knowledge of the meeting.
According to Axios:
“The President said that most walls you hear about are 14 feet or 15 feet tall but this would be nothing like those walls. Trump told the lawmakers they could talk about the solar-paneled wall as long as they said it was his idea. One person cautioned that the President wasn't presenting the solar-paneled wall as the definite solution.”
On March 17, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued two requests for proposals for border wall design prototypes. One RFP requests submissions for a solid concrete wall. The second, labeled “other border wall,” calls for alternative designs.
One applicant, Gleason Partners LLC of Las Vegas, submitted a proposal to cover the wall with solar panels, the AP reported in April. The panels would power lighting, sensors and patrol stations at the border site. Electricity sales from the wall array, to U.S. utilities and potentially to Mexico, could cover the construction costs in 20 years or less, according to Gleason Partners.
“I like the wall to be able to pay for itself,” said managing partner Thomas Gleason.
The Trump administration could select winning companies in the border wall bid sometime this month.
“If you really believe that putting solar on the border wall would make it 'pay for itself', that means you believe in the positive economics of solar,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of GTM Research. “So why not put solar on all government buildings and new construction?”
He added that the hypothetical “solar wall” is a distraction. “What actually matters is the wall itself, and that's where the conversation should be focused,” said Kann.