Marines testing personal solar panels

A company of U.S. Marines based in Afghanistan has been testing roll-up solar panels to see if they can replace hundreds of pounds of batteries. The Marines of India Company used the panels during a three week patrol through southern Afghanistan, and have been using the solar panels to recharge radios, GPS units, and other electronic gear.

The Marines are testing the panels in order to help the Marine Corps achieve the goal of cutting individual Marine fuel use in half by 2025, and for half of the Navy’s energy to come from non-fossil fuels by 2020. By using the small solar panels (each one is about the size of a placemat), the Marines can reduce the amount of batteries they have to carry, and since the batteries that each Marine carries can weigh up to 20 lbs out of the typical 100 lbs of gear that a Marine carries, reducing battery weight can pay big dividends.

Marines power their stuff either by batteries or by generators. Fuel for those generators has to be trucked in, and not only is that expensive, its also very dangerous – fuel convoys are very often attacked. The solar panels used by India company are helping to reduce fuel usage, since the solar panels are replacing the electricity produced by the generators.

The test appears to be a success. Colonel Bob Charette, head of the Marine Expeditionary Energy Office says that the equipment has “surpassed our expectations.” The next step is to get bigger systems out in the field to provide power for larger Marine groups such as full battalions.

via: Wall Street Journal

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