A Las Vegas business hoping to get a piece of the contract to build President Donald Trump’s border wall is pitching a unique design that it says would make the wall pay for itself — in case Mexico won’t pay.
And it could appeal to progressives who otherwise are dead-set against the very idea of a barrier along the border with Mexico.
“It’s going to be a boost to the economy and pay for itself if it’s done right.”
The solution? Solar panels.
Gleason Partners LLC, one of dozens of companies to submit bids, has proposed including solar panels on top of the wall. The panels would generate enough electricity to serve the power needs of the Department of Homeland Security operations along the border with enough electricity left over to sell on the open market.
“I envision it as a way they can have a revenue source and help pay for the maintenance of the wall and all the surveillance equipment and protect it,” managing partner Tom Gleason told LifeZette. “You have to have security for the security, so to speak … It’s going to be a boost to the economy and pay for itself if it’s done right.”
At least 200 companies expressed interest in the controversial border wall. April 4 was the deadline for submitting bids. According to the Associated Press, quoting government sources, the Trump administration expects four to 10 companies to be chosen to build the prototypes, costing $200,000 to $500,000 each.
It remains unclear whether the barrier ever will be built. After campaigning to make Mexico pay for the wall, the administration has requested a $1.4 billion down payment from U.S. taxpayers. But most Democrats fiercely oppose the project, and even some Republicans have expressed reservations.
“The big chunk of money for the wall, really, is … next fiscal year’s appropriations, because they literally can’t start construction even this quickly,” Hose Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told “CBS This Morning” last week.
That brought a rebuke from National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judge on “Varney & Co.” on Wednesday: “President Trump promised he was going to secure the border, and part of securing the border is putting in place the proper technology and resources that allows us to be successful. And a border wall in strategic locations is one of those things that must get done.”
It the project does come to fruition, however, Gleason hopes his is one of the companies. He said his design would work best on relatively flat land with lots of sun. Gleason claimed his proposal would be effective at deterring illegal immigration and could be a revenue generator as well. He estimated the cost at $6 million to $7.5 million per mile.
“It has a lot of potential,” he said.
Gleason said aesthetic considerations are important, too.
“So they better look good,” he said.
Gleason said he worries that an all-concrete wall would create a concrete shortage and drive up the cost of construction. His design relies on other kinds of materials.
The design calls for precast concrete, with a 39,000-pound piece interlocking with a V-shaped, 23,000-pound piece. That would form the base, submerged about 4 feet into the ground and rising 12 feet off the ground, surrounded by rock and stone debris.
The next level would consider of 8 feet of wire mesh, followed by five levels of solar panels. At the top would be an articulated solar array that would move during the day to catch the maximum amount of sun. Gleason said it’s “enough to keep everybody who makes solar in America busy for years.”
In all, Gleason said, the structure would rise 30 feet from the ground; the solar panels would be rated to last at least 25 years. He said the structure would pose special challenges to anyone hoping to scale it.
“They don’t get to climb up the wall,” he said. “They’ve got to literally have a skyhook to get up this thing.”
Gleason said that batteries to store excess solar power, along with sensors and other equipment to alert border patrol officers to attempted crossings, would be stored in the structure on the American side, protected by aircraft-grade aluminum razor wire.
The project would comprise 14,286 solar modules per mile, with each module measuring 5 feet wide and 2 feet high. Gleason estimated that an all-concrete wall would require about 1,300 truckloads of material per mile. He said his proposal, because it uses lighter materials, would require only 500 to 550 truckloads.
Gleason, who has an automotive background, said he got into the solar business about eight or nine years ago. He said his company is the first to sell solar windows for commercial and residential uses. He said it could be a boon to ranchers on both sides of the border, who would have easy access to electricity that would allow them to irrigate new land in remote areas.
Gleason’s border wall would face south to take advantage of the sun.
“In a way, Mexico’s going to pay for the wall, because the sun’s coming from south of the border,” he said.