At a rally in Iowa on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump made public an idea he reportedly first pitched to Republican leaders in Congress several weeks ago: covering his massive, promised wall on the Mexican border with solar panels.
Trump said he had come up with the idea himself. He added he believed it solved the key problem of how exactly it would be financed, as said solar wall would pay for itself by generating electricity.
"We're thinking of something that's unique, we're talking about the Southern Border," Trump told the crowd. "Lots of sun, lots of heat."
"We're thinking about building the wall as a solar wall, so it creates energy and pays for itself," he continued. "And this way Mexico will have to pay much less money, and that's good ... You're the first group I've told that to, a solar wall, makes sense, let's see, we're working it out, we'll see."
"Solar wall," Trump continued. "Panels. Beautiful."
"I mean actually think of it, the higher it goes the more valuable it is," the president concluded. "Pretty good imagination, right? My idea ... that's one of the places that solar really does work, the tremendous sun and heat, it really does work there, so we'll see what happens with that. That would be great. And I think we could make it look beautiful, too."
While Trump may be taking credit for the idea now, a solar panel-covered wall was among the proposals various developers submitted for the project, according to the Associated Press.
Some pro-Trump Twitter users appeared to believe Trump had put Democrats in a masterful bind with the proposal.
The president and his administration have offered varying accounts of the Mexican border wall, with their vision of the project varying between 30 to 55 feet tall, but also maybe being a fence, and that Mexico will pay for it, unless he decides to implement border tariffs, or perhaps target Mexicans living in the U.S. for the removal of tax credits.
The Mexican government has repeatedly mocked the idea of paying for the wall, which could cost anywhere from $21.6 billion to $70 billion (by the estimate of Senate Democrats). Research suggests that stringent border control tactics like the wall could backfire by making the journey between Mexico and the U.S. more arduous, encouraging people to stay long-term when they do get in.
Regardless, more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than entering it, kind of calling into question the whole rationale of the project.