At a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, President Donald J. Trump proposed a new funding mechanism to pay for the mythical wall he’s going to : solar panels – and touted the fact, to cheers from his supporters, that it would ultimately save Mexico money.
Pardon me while I put on my neck brace to aid my recovery from the whiplash.
Candidate Trump spent most of the 2016 campaign telling these same people how solar was too expensive, how it didn’t work and how it was the energy source of the elite (as opposed to coal, which apparently is the fuel source of “real Americans”). President Trump has spent a good part of his nascent Administration bashing solar, putting fossil-fuel advocates in charge of everything solar and proposing enormous cuts to solar research programs.
He has offered coal miners the delusional dream of “clean coal” technology saving their jobs instead of creating sustainable plans to give them a future and seems hellbent on dragging U.S. energy production back to the 19th century (a phrase I must give my colleague Christian Roselund credit for coining).
And yet….and yet…..now that he’s struggling to find a way to force Mexico or Congress to pay for the visions of an imaginary wall that are dancing in his head (he also said at the rally that he had a good imagination, of which this wall is clear evidence), he’s now lighted on this idea of using solar panels and the energy it produces to pay for it.
It’s clear once again that Trump doesn’t really understand how solar works. From his words, he appears to believe the mere production of energy will somehow generate revenue, ignoring the fact someone has to buy the energy it produces. He didn’t explain who would be dong that – was he planning to sell the power to Mexico? The poor residents of south Texas border towns? Who will be purchasing the electricity and at what price?
(It should be noted: Trump keeps telling everyone what a great negotiator he is, so I have no doubt he’ll be able to negotiate the BEST power-purchase agreement (PPA), the GREATEST PPA the world has ever seen. Though it should also be noted that his record as president on negotiating deals has been … spotty at best.)
When this idea was originally floated earlier this month, leaked to CNN by those anonymous sources Trump’s always railing against, it was met with a rousing “meh” from the solar industry. There’s been not a single piece of meat added to the skeleton, which means the solar industry is still waiting to see if any of this comes to fruition.
Given this president’s habit of either flip-flopping on his campaign promises or denying he ever made them, I’m skeptical any of this will matter in the end. The solar industry should, too.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.