Solar Soldiers: Saving Troops with the Sun

March 23, 2012

Earth Techling:

For the first time, U.S. Army soldiers are receiving specialized training on how to use generators with solar-power capability before heading to Afghanistan. The Army says these generators save lives by reducing the amount of fuel that needs to be trucked to troops over dangerous roadways.

The military has been deploying green gear in Afghanistan for a while—we’ve reported on Marines at one forward operating base using flexible solar panels they can carry to power radios, solar tarps to power tents at night and even solar panel arrays that can power more than 20 lighting systems and 15 computers.

“The generators may be connected to solar panels that store energy produced by the sun and allow the batteries in the generator to rest when it reaches capacity, which reduces equipment run time, man-hours and maintenance costs,” said Brandon W. Bloodworth of Barbaricum, a consultancy that works with the military on energy and  readiness issues.  “We’re looking at energy to increase capability.”

Getting energy from the sun translates to savings but more importantly it can trim the amount of fuel that has to be trucked in. The Army said a typical combat outpost might have 40 to 70 personnel, requiring 6,000 gallons of fuel per month, and the 10-day missions to keep those outposts fueled can be especially deadly.

“This initiative is not just about saving fuel,” Newell said. “It’s about saving lives.”

Saving soldier’s lives.

Naturally, the Tea Party Congress is agin’ it.

National Defense Magazine:

Military and civilian defense officials responsible for green initiatives increasingly are flummoxed and frustrated by the demonization of renewable energy. When did efforts to save lives and money become cheap partisan fodder?

“I think it’s sad” that the military’s campaign to burn less fuel and to secure alternative sources of energy is being politicized, one three-star general said in a private conversation.

Several industry insiders who work with the Pentagon’s most visible champion for green energy, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, said they were aghast at the amount of badgering he received last month during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

One Pentagon contractor who produces renewable energy systems said he was appalled by the prosecutorial nature of congressional inquiries on green programs. “When you know people who have gotten killed transporting or guarding fossil fuel, it sort of points you in the right direction,” he lamented.

The US military has a proud tradition of pioneering both technological change – jet engines, radar, microchips, personal computers, the internet,  – as well as social change – like racial integration and sexual equality.

For today’s angry, regressive, medievalists of the right – that’s a tradition that has to come to a halt – even if it costs the lives of soldiers.


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