According to Renew Economy, on Nov. 26, 2012 they reported that U.S. Soldiers have been utilizing solar power in the Afghanistan War for around two years. Their solar power equipment ranges stationary solar arrays to solar backpack kits. A particular piece of equipment of interest deployed by U.S. Special Forces would be their 38-kilowatt hybrid solar generators. They also utilize a certain amount of diesel, but it isn’t completely fuel dependent.
Solar power saves money
According to Richard G. Kidd IV, the deputy assistant of the Army for Energy and Sustainability, he mentioned that in World War II, a soldier would average one gallon of fuel per day, whereas today, it had escalated to 20 gallons per day. From the looks of those war documentaries and news reels, it seems back in those days, more mobilizing was done on foot than by military vehicles and equipment.
Since the end of the of World War II, the infantry is a lot less utilized in the Western World armies. This is due highly used technical weapons in the field that require fuel usage, and thus would stand to reason that the fuel resources used to keep equipment running for weaponry purposes would increase.
SunDial Capital Partners, who provided the hybrid/diesel units, cut the amount of gallon usage per soldier down by half, which is approximately 10 gallons per soldier.
Solar power cuts expenses for trucks and planes
Not only the use of the solar powered generators saves trucks, planes, and other vehicles, but also the risk a soldier has to take when assigned to secure airdrops and fuel convoys. Basically, with less fuel being mobilized, the less risk of soldiers guarding the supply and to less risk to vehicles and thus increased lifespan of the equipment. According to a documentary known as “The Burden” as produced by Roger Sorkin, basically displays the burden of oil in the field of battle, the risks to national security, and to the lives of U.S. Soldiers deployed to protect fuel convoys and mobilization.
Hybrid generator longevity
In comparison to solar generators, regular diesel fuel generators tend to wear out more frequently due to the left over gasoline residue left behind in the engine parts. When a diesel generator is started, the left over droplets from previous sessions is exhausted from the pipe, giving off a white or “cold” smoke which is irritating to the eyes and of introduces CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Also, this left over residue is damaging to generator parts such as the exhaust system, fuel injectors, and engine valves.
Of course, with the hybrid solar/diesel generators, their solar panels are linked to a smart grid which means they can be turned off and reactivated on an as needed basis. This method of efficient usage results in an improved longevity of the hybrid solar/diesel generators.
Stored energy for hybrid solar generators
Sundial’s battery storage systems is better suited for powering the high-tech electronic gear used by current military. This can include high end cameras, sensors, and communication devices. Basically, while the sun is out, then solar panels produce a “load power” capable of charging 64 of these storage batteries. This can then provide power into the night hours and then an optional diesel generator as back up that can power on when the batteries get depleted. Come daybreak, the diesel generators shut off and then the solar panels take over recharging the batteries and producing power. It’s pretty much a seamless transition between the energy producing equipment.
Fortify neighborhoods with solar power
With the Net Zero Initiative, the U.S. Army has a goal of moving forward with fortifying their bases and homes with alternative energy. In Fort Bliss, Texas, their base scheduled to have 4,700 homes running on solar power. Each solar generator hybrid unit will be left behind as troops leave Afghanistan. They will remain to power surrounding small villages.