Going green in enemy territory can save lives
Green systems reduced the need for fuel by up to 90%

There is more to the rationale for the U.S. military to go green with vehicles and weapons than to simply conserve fuel. Helping the environment is one thing, but the military is looking at saving lives by requiring less fuel, which means fewer supply runs to remote bases where soldiers are subject to attack in route.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has been conducting research into a new energy system that uses green and sustainable power from solar energy. The goal is to reduce the need for fuel to allow soldiers to operate for longer periods and reduce the dependence on fuel runs. The ONR breakthrough has now been demonstrated in Afghanistan as a viable technology.

Rear Admiral Nevin Carr, chief of Naval Research said, "The early results from the front indicate the ability of ONR and its Marine Corps partners to make a difference in survivability and efficiency for our warfighters. We have successfully transitioned commercial alternative energy systems to Afghanistan to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and batteries," he added. "By doing so, there is potential for the Marine Corps to cut back the number of resupply convoys to these remote locations and save lives by keeping Marines clear of IED attacks."

The Marines have been operating an experimental forward operating base using the Ground Renewable Energy Networks (GREENS), Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy System (SPACES), LEG lighting, solar Shades, and Solar Light Trailers. The demonstration of the technology has been successful.

SPACES is a lightweight solar panel system that is able to recharge batteries allowing the marines to conduct missions further from the base. The GREENS system is a 300W photovoltaic/battery system that is able to provide power to the marines in the field and using the system has reduced the need for fuel from 25 gallons per day down to two to three gallons of fuel per day.

"The demo [was] successful because the ExFOB team trained the Marines of 3/5 on the strengths and limits of renewable and energy efficient technologies that are being employed," said Col. Bob Charette, director of the USMC Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O). "I believe our young Marines are more accepting of renewable energy technology because of all the discussion in the media and society regarding 'green' energy," he added. 

The ONR is also conducting research into other technologies that are similar for purifying water and more needs. The tech used in the demonstration in Afghanistan came out of an RFI that the ONR issued in 2009.

"We were looking for technologies that could have immediate impact on getting Marines off the roads hauling fuel and water," Charette added

The success of the test base comes on the heels of harsh criticism on the Navy's plans for biofuel use.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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