Solar saving lives for U.S. military

us-military-afghanistanSolar saves lives.

That’s what the U.S. military is beginning to realize in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, according to an in-depth Sierra Club magazine cover story.

How does this work, exactly?

The military must transport large quantities of diesel and other fuels to power generators and other items in dangerous places. This means large convoys of fuel tanker trucks moving slowly through enemy territory. These convoys are essentially sitting ducks for the enemy – and they are regularly attacked.

In fact, up to half of U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan are a direct result of the transportation of fuel.

Solar to the rescue!

Portable solar on the front lines
Portable solar generators are now being used in places in Afghanistan as part of a pilot program to test the usefulness and viability of solar as an electricity generation substitute for diesel.

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So far, so good, reports Sierra Club magazine.

The portable solar generators and battery packs that power Marines’ lights, radios, and computers run quietly, coolly, and cleanly, unlike the loud, cranky, jet-fuel-sucking generators normally used. As a result, Camp Jackson, India Company’s forward operating base in Afghanistan, has been transformed from a noisy, easy target for insurgents roaming the night to a silent, stealthy, safer outpost.

Furthermore, notes Sierra Club Magazine, the 20 to 25 gallons of fuel it previously took to power a platoon each day now last more than a week. This means fewer fuel convoys, and their high casualty rates; fewer collisions with roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and fewer Marines assigned to convoy duty instead of their primary mission.

Fewer heavy batteries needed
Additionally, reports Sierra Club Magazine, portable solar chargers have allowed Marine patrols to spend weeks away from their Camp Jackson stronghold in the Taliban-infested Sangin district of Helmand Province without needing to lug extra batteries for their radios and other devices. This saves soldiers from carrying lots of extra battery weight around and makes it easier for them to move around.

While they do sometimes wear green, or at least, “off-green”, Marines in Afghanistan aren’t usually linked with “green” technologies such as solar.

Yet it’s pretty clear solar has a bright future in terms of future U.S. military operations and helping to improve the safety of U.S. troops, proving, once again, that solar isn’t just for “greenies” anymore – if indeed, it ever was.

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