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Montag, 12. Juni 2017

Trump's pitch for making the Mexico border wall 'beautiful': add solar panels

Trump's pitch for making the Mexico border wall 'beautiful': add solar panels

The president’s ‘put a solar panel on it’ policy to fund the wall may be expensive, impossible to build – and it’s unclear what the energy would be used for.
The president this week proposed a radical way to fund his proposed Mexican border wall: covering it in solar panels.
The same Donald Trump who has spent years criticizing renewable energy as uneconomical and who has pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement has now floated the idea of adding solar panels to his proposed barrier along the the US–Mexico border.

The president believes the panels would transform the wall, which Trump envisions would be 40 to 50ft high, into “beautiful structures”, according to congressional insiders who spoke to Axios about a meeting Trump had with Republican leaders.
Just as “put a bird on it” became Portlandia’s mantra for transforming objects from humdrum to hipster, “put a solar panel on it” appears to be a mechanism for making hostile architecture more palatable.
It turns out that solar panels are popping up as adornments on other hostile structures across the United States.
Last month Boston welcomed 10 new benches with solar-powered USB charging units to its collection of urban furniture. The units allow members of the public to add juice to their smartphones on the go – useful, for sure, but their positioning prohibits homeless people from lying down.

Solar panels have also been installed in the grounds of several California prisons as a means to save on energy costs. Even better, federal inmates actually get to manufacture some solar panels for less than $1 per hour.
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Outfitting public spaces with solar panels doesn’t hurt, but they will never really tackle the underlying problem, said Albert Pope, from the Rice School of Architecture. “The average American needs to cut her energy consumption by 75% – and cut it fast,” he said.
The president’s idea of adorning the border wall with solar panels is raising questions of practicality and logic.
“Putting solar panels on the wall would amount to mere decoration with no substantive contribution to its basic obnoxious function – a barrier separating one group of people from another,” said Langdon Winner, political theorist, philosopher of technology and author of Do Artifacts Have Politics?
“I’m wondering what the solar electricity would be used for? Electrocuting people who try to climb the wall?”
For Nezar AlSayyad, a UC Berkeley professor of architecture and planning, the wall is “indefensible” from a humanitarian perspective and ineffective from a security perspective.
“Trying to embellish it with a technical function or a new utility ... is a folly,” he said.
There are many areas along the border where it will be impossible to build a wall, with or without solar panels. Even if the government could , the wall’s configuration is not appropriate for a solar farm.
“There are no photovoltaic power stations [solar panel farms] that are arranged in a line,” said Pope. “That is because it is inefficient to disperse panels like that.”
Meanwhile so few Americans live within 40 miles of the Mexico border that the government would require a multibillion-dollar interstate power line to deliver the electricity where it was needed. According to an analysis in the Financial Times, the cost of building such infrastructure renders the project a “non-starter”.
Nevertheless, solar panels, Winner said, can make structures seem “more friendly”. He said Trump’s proposal reminded him of the “greening” of steel mills he saw in northern China a decade ago. The mills were surrounded by newly planted little trees as an expression of care for the environment and the health and safety of the people in the vicinity.

“Of course, this gesture had merely symbolic significance. The trees had negligible effect on the pollution belching from the furnaces and smokestacks,” he said.
Just how far could the “put a solar panel on it” policy extend? “I imagine that solar powered electric chairs would be popular in states that still have the death penalty,” said Winner.
If that idea sounds like something The Onion would have written, you won’t be disappointed. The same can’t be said for the solar-powered border wall. According to the report in Axios which broke the story of the president’s proposal: “Trump told the lawmakers they could talk about the solar-paneled wall as long as they said it was his idea.”
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