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Trump wants to put solar panels on his border wall - but would the plan work?

Trump insists ‘his’ idea would work – but experts aren’t so sure.

Source: CNN/YouTube

IN TYPICAL FASHION, Donald Trump was quick to take the credit for the idea – but he’s by no means the first person to suggest putting solar panels on his mooted border wall with Mexico.

“We are thinking about building a wall as a solar wall,” the US President told a crowd in Iowa this week.

Pretty good imagination, right? My idea!

In fact, a Las Vegas company submitted detailed plans – with pictures – in April of this year ahead of the government deadline for proposed designs.

Gleason Partners LLC of Las Vegas proposed in its submission that panels would cover sections of it – providing electricity for lighting, sensors and patrol stations along the wall.

Sales of electricity to utilities could cover also the cost of construction in 20 years or less, according to the company. And power could also be sold to Mexico.

“I like the wall to be able to pay for itself,” managing partner Thomas Gleason said.

In his company’s plans, it’s proposed the panels be placed on the Mexican side. Solar panels in the US generally face south to make best use of sunlight.

1 Source: Gleason Partners LLC

An Oregon-based solar installation firm, Elemental Energy, calculated that a wall with 10-foot-high solar paneling would generate electricity to power 220,000 average-sized homes.

Co-owner of the firm John Grieser told Business Insider:

I don’t support a wall, but if it has to be built, and it’s completely out of my control and influence, then we might as well put some solar panels on it.

Trump’s comments were given a cautious welcome by industry group the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“We are glad to hear that the president appreciates the many benefits of solar energy,” Dan Whitten, SEIA’s vice president of communications, said in a statement.

We agree this could be a cost-cutting, environmentally friendly approach, but we’re going to wait to comment further until we see a more detailed plan.

Others, however, have been far more sceptical.

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2 Source: Gleason Partners LLC

For solar to be economical, there needs to be a buyer in relatively close proximity, said Anya Schoolman, executive director of Community Power Network – a grassroots organisation that promotes local and regional solar projects.

These panels are out in the middle of nowhere, it’s not clear who would buy the energy.

Schoolman added:

It is further complicated by the fact it crosses state boundaries.

Not only does each state have different regulations, so does each utility company and each regional transmission organisation, which runs the power grid in each state or group of states.

“Just the regulatory barriers to doing it would probably make it prohibitive,” Schoolman told AFP.

Edward Alden of the Council of Foreign Relations said the long distances between the border and the places where the power is needed “would likely make it uneconomical”, adding:

And I don’t believe that the administration has actually taken a serious look at this idea.

Trump, according to Axios, talked up his solar-powered wall plans to Republican congressional leaders in a meeting earlier this month.

According to the news site, “Trump told the lawmakers they could talk about the solar-paneled wall as long as they said it was his idea”.

With reporting from © – AFP 2017 and Associated Press 

Read: Varadkar says he will not rescind Donald Trump’s invitation to visit Ireland >

Read: Donald Trump gets a major boost in an election seen as a referendum on him >

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Daragh Brophy

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