Having watched a number of alternative energy projects fail through naive misunderstanding of practicalities I am wondering if the President of the United States is well served by his advisers. Mr Trump claims he is looking at building his wall with Mexico in a way that might incorporate solar panels. The panels, in his mind at least, would subsidize the wall.
In this instance his lack of scientific knowledge or even perhaps an inability to listen to qualified advisors is making his prognostications sound silly.
It is true that in general terms electrical generation by solar panels is becoming more attractive with advances in technology. Unfortunately for the President, if anyone bothered to look at any of the recently established photovoltaic farms they would notice that the current arrays of solar panels are placed as close as possible to centres of population and more importantly that the panels are not arranged in a single long line. It is inefficient to place them in a single line primarily because one of the main expenses in this form of generation of large solar farms is the cost of the multimillion dollar power lines taking the electricity to the consumers.
While there is indeed plenty of sunshine in the area of the projected wall, if the US expects to be a beneficiary of the generation scheme, the current sparse US population near the wall will add tremendously to any costs of distributing the generated power on the US side of the border.
Most solar arrays already take some years before they pay for themselves. If the solar panels are intended to subsidize the wall simple logic suggests separate installations clustered away from the wall in the most advantageous positions would be the way to go.
If on the other hand Mr Trump secretly anticipates that the panels are intended primarily to electrify the wall to keep all those illegal farm workers out of the Mid West perhaps he doesn’t care that his proposal is clearly uneconomic. The rapturous Mid Western crowd who listened to his announcement may be slightly less enthusiastic in the cold light of the next day when it turns out that a consequence of the electrified wall is that the Mid Western farmers will then have to pay more for their previously cheap labour.
It may take some time for news of his proposed scheme to reach the coal miners who voted for Mr Trump, but the President has apparently forgotten one of his main election promises was to get the coal miners back to work at the very time in history when alternative power was putting them out of work