War in a desert. There's a lot of sun, and it usually takes place off the grid. Transporting fuel is dangerous and logistically cumbersome. The easy answer? Solar power, but first it needs trial missions. The Marines have been testing various solar devices in Afghanistan. Now the Army is enlisting three solar tents to see if they can endure the wear and tear of grunt life.
Made from amorphous silicon, the lightweight tents—the TEMPER Fly, the QUADrant, and the Power Shade (right)—can charge batteries, computers, night-vision goggles, and other electronic gear for the troops, though likely there will be conventional generators on standby. The largest of the Power Shades generate up to 3 kilowatts, with the other tent models bringing in between 200 and 800 watts. I assume they come in green as well?
In a statement, Steven Tucker, a senior engineer at the Natick Soldier Research Design and Engineering Center, said:
Alternative energy sources are really going to shine in mission scenarios where you don’t want to use a generator because you don’t want the noise or heat signature that goes along with it, or where re-supplying that generator with fuel doesn’t make sense.
According to Tucker, creating the shelters involves a lamination process that integrates the photovoltaic materials with the tent textile. They have already shipped some abroad to sunny locales like Afghanistan.
The Army has said it hopes to achieve "net-zero" energy consumption—defined within the parameters of buildings and installations—by 2030. The Pentagon recently set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a third within a decade. This may not be as difficult as it seems, considering the goal doesn't include combat areas where the armed forces’ biggest fuel consumers operate (jets, tanks, ships, etc.)
Still, according to Lt. General Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, each soldier in Iraq required around 16 gallons of fuel per day. At an Association of the U.S. Army convention recently, he said:
Ground resupply has accounted for some 30 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq...Just a 10-percent reduction applied to non-brigade combat team soldiers involved in fuel transport and handling could result in as many as 1,500 or more soldiers available for other missions and 234 less vehicles per day, or 85,000 fewer road-miles per year.
How much these tents cost wasn't listed, but they seem like a good deal to me. Here's hoping they work.
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Image: U.S. Army
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