Over Memorial Day weekend, the blog is featuring posts about how the U.S. military is utilizing renewable energy technology to bring down costs, maximize security, and–most importantly–save lives.
The U.S. Marine Corps depends on modern communication equipment to keep them connected with radios and computers, but with that equipment comes a tremendous demand for energy.
Because of the constant need for a reliable, consistent energy source, Marines are now field testing renewable energy devices designed to make them more autonomous and less reliant on costly–and dangerous–fossil fuel convoys.
Marines deploy quickly and remain independent throughout a conflict or in a hostile environment, so they are particularly constrained by a demand for energy, whether it be batteries or fossil fuel required for generators. As a Marine commander in the First Gulf War, Gen. James Mattis was familiar with this restriction, calling it the “tether of fuel.”
David Roberts, in a piece for the National Journal focusing on the relationship between clean energy and the military, reported that Marines are now experimenting with portable solar panels, LED lights and water filtration systems among other new innovations. In his report, Roberts stated that some Marines are less open to these new technologies, but that there is plenty of support coming from younger Marines who are trying out the new devices. Top decision makers in the Corps are excited by the possibilities as well.
“Other people are busy saving the planet; this is about saving Marine lives,” Col. Bob Charette, director of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, said in a recent story about renewable energy devices at work on the battlefield. “I’d kiss a polar bear if it meant getting one Marine off an IED-filled highway.”
For example, India Company, from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, experimented with Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy Systems (called SPACES) for three weeks in 2010. India Company reported at the end of the trial that they didn’t need to use a battery resupply at all. The SPACES are flexible solar panels weighing about 2 1/2 lbs each, allowing the India Company to travel over 700 pounds lighter than under usual conditions.
Both the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy are committed to cutting their fossil fuel consumption by 50 percent over the next eight years. The Army and the Air Force are also pursuing renewable energy measures for their operations.