Washington – US President Donald Trump proposed before his supporters on Wednesday a new idea for the wall he plans on constructing along the US-Mexico border, suggesting that it be covered with solar panels.
The revenue from the generated power will cover the cost of the construction.
He said before a rally in Cedar Rapids in Iowa: “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?”
Trump had previously floated the solar panel idea during a closed-door meeting with Republican members of Congress earlier this month, but this was the first time he’d discussed the idea publicly.
“Pretty good imagination, right?” Trump said at the rally, framing the plan as “my idea.”
The notion of adding solar panels to the border wall was explored in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in March. Vasilis Fthenakis, director of the Center for Life Cycle Analysis at Columbia University, and Ken Zweibel, former director of the Solar Institute at George Washington University, concluded it was “not only technically and economically feasible, it might even be more practical than a traditional wall.”
They said a 2,000-mile solar wall could cost less than $1 billion, instead of tens of billions for a traditional border wall, and possibly become “wildly profitable.” The writers were studying a concept laid out by Homero Aridjis and James Ramey in the online World Post in December.
The idea also was proposed by one of the companies that submitted a design to the government as a border wall prototype.
The bid by Las Vegas-based Gleason Partners LLC proposed covering some sections of the wall with solar panels to provide electricity for lighting, sensors and patrol stations along the wall. Gleason said sales of electricity to utilities could cover the cost of construction in 20 years or less, and suggested that power could also be sold to Mexico.
Managing partner Thomas Gleason said he wasn’t sure whether his company was still in the running for the contract, but added, “We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, and that’s to make the president realize there was such a possibility.”
During his campaign, Trump had vowed to build an impenetrable wall along the length of the US-Mexican border out of concrete and steel.
But since his inauguration, he has faced resistance, with Congress unwilling to finance the plan.
Trump has long maintained that Mexico will pay for his wall, even though Mexico has flatly refused. Trump insists that even if US taxpayers have to cover the costs upfront, Mexico will eventually be forced to reimburse the US in some way.