covering the border wall with solar panels

    It's been so hot here in Arizona, 108 at my house for the last week, that all I can do is sit on the computer. So I decided to toss off a little blog. Hopefully it will be informative enough without being too technical.

    Trump has been talking up putting solar panels on his border wall. As usual this is a stupid idea used by Trump as propaganda to appeal to democrats. Since democrats accept the science on climate change and support renewable energy Trump supposes they will support his border wall if it's covered in solar panels. This off the cuff bullshit isn't workable due to the science of electric transmission.

    The border is the most isolated terrain in America. That electricity has to go somewhere and there are no large cities or high voltage transmission lines anywhere near the border. Over this incredibly rough terrain we'd have to run high voltage transmission lines to large cites north of the border. The cost of those lines are several hundreds of thousands of dollars a mile.

    There's a reason we use high voltage transmission lines that carry voltages of 1,000 or more times normal house voltage of 115 volts. Wire has a inherent resistance and at lower voltages over long distances that resistance adds up in a significant amount of power loss. By lowering the current flowing through the wire and raising the voltage the loss is minimized. While we could, at high cost, minimize the power loss with a couple of high voltage lines from the border to some large city north there is still the problem of power loss from individual solar panels to the transformers at the high voltage line.

    Instead of a consolidated square with each panel a short distance from the transformers the panels on the wall would be on a long line with panels some a few dozen yards to others being hundreds of miles from the transformers. With low voltage dc running over hundreds of miles the power loss for the farthest panels would result in no electricity reaching the transformer. The cost of installing solar panels on the wall and running a couple of high voltage transmission lines would not be off set by the amount of electricity generated when voltage losses are factored in.


    Still brutally hot here, 107 today. So I thought I'd add to this blog. One reason I found Trump's solar panel lined border wall so interesting is it illustrates so well the way he thinks and acts. He's so proud of this idea. He came up with it himself and brags about it often most recently at his Iowa campaign event. He claims again and again how he's such a smart guy. He has no clue that it wouldn't work. Worse though is he didn't check it with anyone. He should have a science adviser, if he didn't fire the last one and if he took the time to nominate a new one, who he could run this idea by. It wouldn't even take someone with a Phd in physics. In every building he made there was some electrician pouring over the wiring design and determining wire size to, among other things, make the voltage drop over the wire as small as possible. Even in a building with such relatively short distances of the Trump tower, only 1/8 of a mile high, the voltage drop can be several percent. That much loss of power just over the wire can be costly. With his border wall panels we're talking about tens and hundreds of miles of wire.

    Trump doesn't think. He doesn't research. He doesn't check his ideas with experts in the field. He's a completely ignorant fool who knows nothing about almost everything, except perhaps the New York real estate market. Yet he thinks he's absolutely brilliant about everything.


    Unfortunately, like many "ideas" that Trump claims springs from his brain this one wasn't his either. The administration put out calls for engineering ideas for "The Wall". This particular idea was pitched by Gleason Partners to the Customs and Border Protection Agency - Gleason being a Vietnam Vet.

    One of the companies that pitched border wall designs to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, Gleason Partners, proposed adding solar panels to cover sections of the wall, the Associated Press reported in April.

    The firm’s managing partner Thomas Gleason even used the same phrases to describe the project.  “I like the wall to be able to pay for itself,” he said at the time. 

    Gleason, a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran-turned businessman, told Newsweek he does not mind the president claiming the idea as his own.

    "I think it was Trump's idea, he just did not know it. I don't mind sharing!" he joked. Gleason explained that his goal is to ensure the wall will never be in need of extra funding. "I don't even care about who builds the wall, I just care that they make it so that it pays for itself, so it's not a burden on America."

    Newsweek 6/22/2017

    What hit me about your post was that I have gotten to the point where I don't even ponder anymore about the reality of something Trump says, as you have here, rather, I just presume it is silly or stupid.

    Thanks for pointing out what you did, not being very scientifically minded, I actually never thought about this angle with the new types of power generation. I see windmills driving out in the country around NYC and I've investigated solar cells on roofs a bit, and I definitely thought about how much environment will affect what  but I never connected this big picture of transmission.

    I guess Trump's useful for some of us learning actual facts we might not know? Hah!

    Gawd I just feel so sorry for you guys in AZ, saw some of the stories and as much as I am starting to dislike winter, and as much as I always say dry heat is better than humidity, I can't imagine anything worse than what you have right now. Because with no let up, no break for even a few hours of such intense heat day after day, it must start to feel like suffocation. Can't imagine anything worse. Much worse cabin fever than winter, too. Experienced 115 degrees once for a day in Sacramento, that was enough.

    It seems like many make the same presumption. I was waiting for some article debunking his solar panel wall and no one wrote much about it on any of the sites I read.

    I'm lucky here, or it's a trade off. Not enough solar power to run an air conditioner but so far out in the country that there're no black roads or parking lots. The owners of the ghost town live in Tucson and it was 117 at his house. It's 2 AM now and the temp has dropped to 88 which hardly seems like relief. With all the black pavement in the city sucking up heat all day and radiating it all night the night temp in Tucson is probably not much different than the day temp. It's tough.  I'm just waiting it out until the monsoons come.

    The wall would be vertical, I presume, which is kinda the wrong angle for an efficient suntan. You could do better with a few flat horizontal football fields north of the border, and then, as you note, would be a lot better to have those football fields near Tucson or similar, not coyote springs.

    Don't knock it. it's a great idea that just needs a few tweaks.

    Just make it horizontal instead of vertical.

    Locate it near cities near the border, like Tijuana, instead of *at* the border.

    Pay the Mexicans to build it, work it and maintain it so they stay there instead of coming to the US as illegals. 

    Maybe even get the Mexicans to pay us back at some point. 

    ha! Suck it Mexico. 


    The President of the United States never hires anyone smarter than himself, or to be safe above Rick Perry, you can forget about that White House job.

    He is not a moron.

    He would put the panels on the north side of the wall so the drug cartels don't tap in and power their drug/rapist throwing catapults with them.

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