Solar Power

Trump Combines His Worst Ideas Into a Solar-Power Border Wall

The idea is sadly gaining steam.

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Solar wall
Dashark/Dreamstime

Donald Trump's border wall has always been an ineffective, immoral, and incredibly expensive idea. But lately he's been making it even worse, by suggesting that it double as a giant solar power plant.

The president first floated this notion back in June, saying that a wall topped with solar panels "creates energy and pays for itself." Now, with work on border wall prototypes getting underway, his idea doesn't seem to be just a passing fancy.

"Solar panels or technology bundles on top of the fence certainly isn't off the table," Mario Villarreal, the new division chief for San Diego's Customs and Border Protection field office, told The Washington Examiner yesterday. Villarreal's office is overseeing the construction of eight different border wall prototypes.

How exactly solar panels would make a border wall better is not entirely clear. Solar technology would be a poor migrant repellent, and there is every reason in the world to doubt that it would actually bring the costs of a wall down.

Some number crunching by Business Insider puts the cost of simply installing a solar array along the southern border at somewhere between $1.4 billion and $4.2 billion—all to generate maybe $100 million worth of electricity a year. Those estimates, mind you, do not include the cost of transmission lines, software, energy storage systems, regular maintenance, and everything else that goes into getting power from panels to people.

California already spends $9 million a year maintaining its own portion of our current low-tech border wall. Constantly replacing solar panels damaged by storms or smugglers would make the price sky-high.

Trump's other protectionist policies have only compound these expenses. In April, the president signed a number of executive orders instructing his administration to adhere to several "Buy American" rules for government procurement.

As Dan Ikenson of the Cato Institute told Reason at the time, such requirements only drive up the cost of government projects. "If we're talking about a $1 trillion infrastructure project, we might only get $500 billion of infrastructure."

Meanwhile, the Trump administration may start slapping tariffs on solar panels. Last month the International Trade Commission declared that imported Chinese solar panels were hurting American manufacturing jobs; it will soon recommend to the White House whether or not to impose new trade barriers in response.

Should those tariffs go through, the U.S. market will be starved of cheaper competition, sapping already-subsidized domestic solar companies' incentive to innovate and bring prices down. That means U.S. taxpayers would have to shell out even more for 1,000 miles of solar border fencing.

Taken one at a time, Trump's various protectionist policies come across as costly and counter-productive. When merged into the single idea of a solar border wall, they combine into an absurd and contradictory mess. To protect American workers with a giant border wall, Trump wants to spend even more money covering that wall with high-cost American solar panels that he may make even more expensive with tariffs.

If that counts as winning, I'm already sick of it.

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  1. “Solar technology would be a poor migrant repellent”

    Somebody has never heard of Archimedes Death Ray

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  2. Let’s ask the Mongols how well wall technology works at preventing people from moving from area A into area B over large stretches of mostly uninhabited land.

    1. Shouldn’t you be asking Matt Damon?

    2. Don’t forget the Caledonians. Those damned Scots are always jumping Hadrian’s Wall these days

  3. The idea is sadly gaining steam.

    Nuh uh, because it’s SOLAR.

  4. Sounds like another agency transfer in the works.

    Trump is becoming the same old sh*t politician more every day.

  5. California already spends $9 million a year maintaining its own portion of our current low-tech border wall.

    I strongly doubt that that money is spent by the State of California. Maybe the Federal government spends that on the California portion of the wall?

  6. It should have a chair every mile where Trumpkins could strap themselves in and electrocute themselves. I’d be all for it.

    1. Nothing says high end intellect like using clever terms like Trumpkins. How do you people do this?

      1. We teabagged some cuckservatives into telling us.

      2. John, arbiter of decency in political discourse.

        1. You should be all for this dumbass. This has everything you love. Massive government waste that does not work. Subsidies to inefficient solutions that never work. Employing hordes of bureaucrats and a massive jobs program.

          It is no different than obamacare and it save polar bears.
          This is better for you than sucking off Rachel Maddow.

  7. Sticking solar panels on the border wall is some epic trolling indeed.

    1. Remember, though, they’re gonna have to be transparent, so you can see when Mexicans are throwing bags of drugs over, and dodge accordingly.

      1. Use the solar panels to power TV cameras on the Mexican side and giant TV screens on the U.S. side. Do I have to think of everything?

        1. Good call! And in case the whole make-Mexico-pay-for-it thing doesn’t work out, they can sell commercial spots on the tvs, and maybe even show some sporting events. BUT ONLY IF THE PLAYERS STAND FOR THE ANTHEM

          1. Just show soccer games where the players stand for the Mexican anthem. That way Mexican companies will pay for the wall through ad revenue aimed at Mexicans who come over here… LEGALLY… to watch the kickyballs. Everybody wins.

            1. GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          2. As long as there are little windows in the wall, just big enough to pass avocados through.

            1. That sounds…

              *dons sunglasses*

              …like a glorious hole!

    2. And trolling libtards is the job of the US president. Says so right in the constitushun of the Jesus America.

      1. That was hilarious. You should just give up

        Just get some skinny jeans and a razor blade and end it already.
        You suck.

    3. Sticking solar panels on the border wall is some epic trolling indeed.

      And they always fall for it!

  8. Ok, who gave Trump the mushrooms? And what other drugs can you dose him with?

  9. Maybe if the wall doubled as a natural gas pump, you might have something. A 2,000-mile long gas well. In fact, if he plays his cards right, he might be able to frack a giant, insurmountable chasm between Mexico and paradise.

  10. I think the author is taking Trump’s brain-farts way too seriously.

    1. Either that or Trump is one set of cornrows away from being the second season of Eastbound and Down.

    2. I think you are not taking it serious enough. Repubs will do anything to build the wall and the Dems ears just perked up at solar panels and were all ready listening because of infrastructure spending (listening while still talking shit). This maybe just crazy enough to be passed by Congress.

  11. This sounds vaguely familiar. Oh, yeah, nooow I ‘member.

    1. I remember that project, and I remember laughing out loud at how stupid of an idea it was. You have to be about 95% ignorant of solar power to think it’s a good idea, which makes sense as this was pitched to politicians.

      Nice to see I wasn’t wrong at the time about how idiotic it was.

      1. That article was hideously written. Roads “non-parallel” to the incident light is, um, actually what you want. In fact you want them as non-parallel as possible.

        Still a stupid idea instantly recognizeable as such. So the government funding was a lock.

    2. Shit, I remember that. I remember expressing some incredulity at it when I heard about it, everyone assured me it was a solid idea though with the kinks worked out. Wasn’t some original version of it Kickstarted?

  12. “Solar panels or technology bundles on top of the fence certainly isn’t off the table,” Mario Villarreal, the new division chief for San Diego’s Customs and Border Protection field office, told The Washington Examiner yesterday.

    “Those things are, however, off the wall.”

  13. Solar technology would be a poor migrant repellent

    Indeed. No American wants to work in the field.

  14. Trump’s a builder, and builders like their niche. They want to talk about rebar and PTACs and finishes. Trump is the Noah of presidents. The Benjamin Sisko of presidents. A builder. And he should do to the wall what he does to everything else he builds: cover it in brass. Blind everyone who approaches. Duh.

  15. Is this the same business insider that believes that “renewables” are cost effective? Why yes, yes it is. Apparently it’s the lack of love that changes everything.

    1. Do you never feel even a little embarrassed that you endorse or reject inanimate technologies based on your political tribe? I mean, that’s pretty fucking sad.

      1. Depends. Are you embarassed that you can’t count past eleventy?

        1. But seriously. If fat Rush Limbaugh decided 20 years ago that solar power was an awesome new tech and wave of the future, you today, even if you never listened to that fattie, would be all about it. You have beliefs for reasons that are retarded.

          1. Projection isn’t a good look for you, Tony. Unlike you I understand the physics and the numbers behind energy generation and exactly why wind and solar are a joke. You see the “right” people make ignorant claims and are credulous. If you weren’t such an ignorant idiot you would see that.

            1. No you don’t. You read it on some bullshit rightwing blog funded by oil interests. You don’t know anything. You are a vessel into which fat people pour bad ideas.

              1. Well that’s a convincing argument. Let me respond in a way that you’ll understand:

                I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.

                Now run along and get your Soros approved rebuttal.

              2. You read it on some bullshit rightwing blog funded by oil interests.

                Poor Tony doesn’t even know that oil has almost nothing to do with electric generation.

                1. Wait so you’re trying to tell me that modern plastics, solar panels, and wind turbines don’t just grow on trees?

                  You must be a right wing shill!

                  /sarc

          2. Obvious troll is being obvious.

          3. If Rush Limbaugh were gay, would you call him gay Rush Limbaugh?

            1. Well, he’d definitely call him

  16. RE: Trump Combines His Worst Ideas Into a Solar-Power Border Wall\

    We must all back this idea of building a wall around our country as Trump states.
    This way we will be able to keep out pro-capitalist, freedom loving, hard working immigrants who love the America ideals of freedom, capitalism and privacy from entering our society.
    The other added plus to this wall is that it will be a giant waste of money, time and resources.
    Besides, what could possibly go wrong with a bunch of republicans spending our hard earned tax dollars building a wall?

    1. This way we will be able to keep out pro-capitalist, freedom loving, hard working immigrants who love the America ideals of freedom, capitalism and privacy from entering our society.

      The lies Progressitarians have to tell themselves to pretend they aren’t destroying liberty in the US.

      Actual Facts on Hispanics in the US, immigrants and otherwise:

      PEW Research on Hispanic Americans

      http://www.pewresearch.org/fac…..democrats/
      Hispanics Lean Democratic over 3 to 1

      http://www.pewhispanic.org/201…..-religion/
      Hispanics Want Bigger Government Providing More Services over 3 to 1

      You get similar numbers for immigrants generally.

      When you import people, you import their political culture with them. The US has a rare tradition of liberty. Other countries, not so much. Mass immigration makes the US less free. Duh.

      1. What about all the natural born Americans who agree with those ideas? What if we import the immigrants who agree with you politically, your own statistic says 25% of immigrants are against the things you are against.

  17. How exactly solar panels would make a border wall better is not entirely clear.

    Some solar power is eminently practical to power IT infrastructure.

    And the Laser Turrets.

    Pew pew pew!

    So much winning!

    1. Some solar power is eminently practical to power IT infrastructure.

      Intermittent generators are worst thing to power IT infrastructure.

      1. Isolated solar installations charge banks of batteries. Duh.

        1. You didn’t say solar power with expensive “banks of batteries”. Duh.

          1. It is sort of implied unless you don’t know how solar power works, I would think, since generally it’s considered terrible design to have excess power bleed into the ether uselessly.

            1. It is sort of implied unless you don’t know how solar power works …

              Having actually been in that situation (40 kW array) I wouldn’t imply that at all. First, the array would go offline at the loss of commercial power as there would cease to be a source for the solar array inverters to sync with. Second, the server rooms ran on a rather large UPS supplied by a wall of gel cell batteries that had nothing to do with the solar system. And third, the UPS was a bridge between loss of power and the startup of the 1.25 MW generator.

              I would think, since generally it’s considered terrible design to have excess power bleed into the ether uselessly.

              They don’t. All grid connected inverters are equipped with a automatic disconnect if the grid drops out.

              1. I just thought it was an odd comment, since you seemed to be saying that a solar panel wouldn’t use a battery to store power when no power was being used, but I was also assuming residential so that was probably my misunderstanding.

                I would never use solar to try and power something like a server room for a ton of reasons, but I’m no professional. *shrug* Consider me schooled.

  18. Donald Trump’s border wall Globalist open borders has always been an ineffective, immoral, and incredibly expensive idea.

    FTFY

    1. “Walls don’t work.”

      That’s why no one ever builds one around something they want to control access to.

      1. China built a wall centuries ago. China doesn’t have a problem with illegal immigrants from Mexico.

        Case closed.

        1. Who are you, who are so wise in the ways of science?

      2. That’s not an argument. Might as well say, “let’s put a bunch of doors on the border and lock them. That’s why people make doors, to control access.”

        The question isn’t whether walls exist, it’s whether it would be effective. At least argue with some reason and facts it would be effective instead of making inane statements and boring us versus them arguments.

        1. Walls around a defined, smaller area work fine enough when guarded. I think everyone would agree there.

          Where people might disagree is that a wall that’s somewhere around 1900 miles could be guarded or made to specifications that wouldn’t be relatively simple to get around using 2000+ year old technology. Say, a shovel or a ladder and a wool blanket.

          It’s not rocket surgery, it’s an idea that even mostly uneducated farmers can and have subverted throughout history.

          Castles might work, but national walls not so much. Still waiting for someone to say ‘but the Berlin Wall worked’.

          1. Walls around a defined, smaller area work fine enough when guarded. I think everyone would agree there.

            Sure. My point isn’t that walls don’t exist or that this does or doesn’t work. Just that his statement avoids the whole underlying question as if it is plainly obvious that it just might work.

  19. Mario Villarreal

    Has anybody checked his immigration status?

  20. Some number crunching by Business Insider puts the cost of simply installing a solar array along the southern border at somewhere between $1.4 billion and $4.2 billion?all to generate maybe $100 million worth of electricity a year.

    I wonder how quickly progressives will be forced to admit that $900 trillion worth of solar installation spanning a hundred googlejillion square feet only produces about 40 watts?

    1. Is that you, Rush?

  21. Maybe he thinks that putting solar panels on it will be enough to convince some Democrats to actually support it? E.g., “liberals love solar power, therefore they’ll love a solar panel covered border wall.”

  22. You know, if you used those solar panels to generate power to run an ethanol distillery and the ethanol to power a windmill factory and the windmills to power Elon Musk’s battery factory, you’d have something.

    1. Methanol. The power for ethanol comes from the slaughter of billions of yeast, gorged on food humans could have been eating.

      We could save a lot of the hassle by going solar power(+water and carbon dioxide) to methane to the windmill factory then the battery factory. This allows us to use all of the existing natural gas infrastructure to move energy where we need it. We could save a lot more hassle by eliminating the last two steps and burning the methane in existing gas power plants, stoves, furnaces, hot water heaters, …

      The problem is that we are then taking billions of galleons of water from one area and releasing it somewhere else. This isn’t a hard problem to solve but no one wants to pay for spillover costs.

  23. While I am an immigration restrictionist (illegal especially), a fancy wall would be a waste of money (the current wall, at least where it has been erected, looks like jail bars, and seems to be adequate);. However, as I am totally committed to weaning the world off of carbon, I would have no problem supporting this boondoggle. And I suspect a lot of Democrats feel the same way.

  24. I do not believe the author of this article has a clue about how to achieve the goals to provide massive solar energy supplies without destroying more natural resources of clean breathable air than they are worth.
    In San Diego County a fence along the boarder with articulating mounts on the top could save thousands of acres of natural scenic vegetation as well as agricultural land. One model currently proposed is panels mounted on a pole that are 30 feet tall by 50 feet wide each. Infrastructure to connect to the national grid is already in place. I started to print out a sample of some of the San Diego reg.s to comply with alone but thought they are easy enough to Google and don’t express the frustration they cause local residents. It is worth looking into well beyond your offhand dismissal.

  25. Hey, Christian Britschgi.

    Are you clueless about how politicians operate?

    I have no liking for Trump, but he’s no different than any other half-baked politician. And they’re all half-baked.

    He’s running an idea up the flagpole to watch the reactions to his stunts. It’s much more effective and noticeable than actually doing something.

    You seem to have been sucker punched by taking him seriously.

  26. You say there’s something for everyone to hate, but notoriously almost-tacit trump fan Scott Adams thinks its a genius way to get democrats onboard. I think he’s underestimating the extent to which both parties are defining themselves as “not the other party”. (i think its the coincidence of both parties doing this that has led to the recent spasms of flip-floppery; the whole argument is just about itself and can spiral away from any previous principles pretty quickly)

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