Solar tactically used on the Afghan front

Marines are successfully using solar to recharge batteries, light tents, reduce generator fuel needs, and fuel trips at Forward Operating Base Jackson.

Marines and their Afghan national army counterparts in front of a ZeroBased Regenerator, a solar/energy storage unit consisting of six solar panels. It can power 17 computers and 15 lighting units simultaneously. Marines added four more panels (two on each side) of this particular unit for even more power. U.S. Marine Corps/Gunnery Sgt. William Price

A Marine experiment aimed at determining whether it's beneficial, or even feasible, to use solar energy in the theater of war has landed on the side of solar.

That's according to an article filed Wednesday by Gunnery Sgt. William Price, 1st Marine Division, about Marines located in the Sangin District of Helmand Province, Afghanistan at what's known as an "experimental forward operating base."

The Marine 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment at Forward Operating Base Jackson, and its Afghan national army counterparts, have been using portable solar blankets to continuously charge radio batteries while on long patrols, solar tarps to power lighting for tents at night, and solar panels to power command centers and computers.

To be clear, this Marine regiment was not simply thrown into using the new gear while in Afghanistan. They do have the claim to fame of being the "first military unit to use nothing but renewable energy to power their systems" when they participated in Enhanced Mojave Viper in July 2010, a month-long pre-deployment training exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Among that equipment, the PowerShade solar tarp made to fit a standard issue Marine Corps tent that can power a tent's lighting system. The ZeroBas Regenerator consists of six solar panels attached to a storage battery capable of providing enough electricity to run 20 lighting systems and 15 computers simultaneously. The Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy System is a slightly smaller solar/battery system that can generate enough power for four computers or one Combat Operations Center.

But the regiment told Price that they have been discovering some new benefits of using solar while at war.

Using portable solar blankets to charge radios has enabled them to carry fewer extra batteries, leaving room for more ammunition.

When operating at Patrol Base Sparks, an outpost of Forward Operating Base Jackson, regiment members have managed to get their fuel use down from 20 gallons per day per generator to just 2.5 gallons per generator.

And that change has enabled those Marines to generate and store enough electricity during sunlit hours, that generators are only minimally run at night, reducing noise and allowing the base to be less conspicuous to insurgent attackers, Staff Sgt. Greg Wenzel, 1st Platoon told Price.

Most importantly, it's cut down on the amount of convoy trips U.S. military have had to make for fuel replenishments. That change has cut down their exposure to attacks and roadside bombs, according to Staff Sgt. David Doty, 1st Platoon.


(via Wired Danger Room )
About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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