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Fossil Fuels Lockheed Martin wins contract to supply US Air Force with portable solar power arrays built into shipping containers

Published on May 9th, 2010 | by Tina Casey

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Forget Solar-in-a-Suitcase, the Air Force is getting Solar Power in a Shipping Container

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May 9th, 2010 by  

Lockheed Martin wins contract to supply US Air Force with portable solar power arrays built into shipping containersIt was probably inevitable that the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces would try to one-up each other in the race to marginalize fossil fuels, and here’s just the latest example.  Just a few months after the U.S. Marines announce a portable solar power system the size of a large suitcase, the Air Force signs a $3.5 million contract with Lockheed Martin to outfit entire shipping containers as portable solar power generators for rapid field deployment.

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It’s just one part of an all-out push by the U.S. Armed Forces to wean themselves – and the rest of us – off fossil fuels, and though we don’t need any more reminders that it’s way past time to do that, here’s the BP oil spill, the Massey coal mine disaster (to say nothing of mountaintop coal mining), the Tennessee coal ash flood, and the Iraq War.  Not too long ago the U.S. ran on firewood, whale oil and raw horsepower, so what’ s the big deal about continuing to move up the energy ladder?

Lockheed Martin and Solar Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are are cheap, available, easy to move around the world through existing infrastructure, and ripe for recycling, so using them as a platform for portable solar power is yet another great example of a sustainability twofer.  The new system is part of the Air Force’s Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources (BEAR) program, which aims to establish mobile bases with portable assets including housing, water and other support systems for thousands of troops.  Lockheed’s system will hook into the existing BEAR grid with the triple goals of cutting fuel consumption by 25%, alleviating the crippling logistics of fossil fuel supply, and providing for a more reliable  power stream.

Portability, Sustainability and the U.S. Armed Forces

Speaking of a little friendly competition between branches of the armed services, the U.S. Army’s Tank, Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center has also developed a power platform that integrates multiple inputs including solar and wind.  Meanwhile, the Navy is focusing on solar power at permanent bases as well as portable high efficiency desalination units.  The Air Force and the Navy also seem to be in a head-to-head race for replacing fossil jet fuel with renewable biofuel from camelina.  As for the Coast Guard, well they have their hands full at the moment…

Image: U.S. Air Force Academy Graduation by Beverly & Pack on flickr.com.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Paul Felix Schott

    Great News From the Pentagon Clean Fuel Energy From the Sun July 19, 2011
    In Hawaii The Department of Defense will start to cover its Military
    Family Housing with Solar Energy. This will greatly help stop the need
    for Oil in the Hawaii Islands. This is just the start to the D.O.D.
    reducing its 4 billion dollar need for Dirty Energy. From now on the
    D.O.D. will look to Renewable Energy, Clean Energy. The Hawaiian
    Islands will see the Largest Solar covered homes and housing Roofs in
    the World 6,000 units. Thanks to William Lynn Deputy Secretary of the Defense and
    Steven Chu Secretary of Energy and to many others. The D.O.D.
    has some 300,000 building the day will come when all will be powered by
    Clean Energy. i can not thank all that made this happen enough.
    GOD Bless
    United We Stand In GOD We Will Always Trust
    Story By
    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

    • Sean Crust

      I have found a solution for one part of the problem , check out off world power solutions they have a thing s named the SKA power units , there are refiting 20 ft and 40 shipping containers with fold up solar panels , inverter s, battery banks and diesel gen sets

  • http://www.2greenenergy.com Craig Shields

    It’s nice to see this particular branch of the government being proactive in the field of alternative energy – especially since the US military is the single largest consumer of oil fuels in the country.

    I think the above comment by ‘electric vehicle’ brings up a definite potential that could be explored, and which would also address Charles R. Toca’s above concern. Considering the advances in the use of molten salt as an energy exchange and storage medium, night-time generation and power fluctuation worries could be addressed.

    I happen to think solar thermal, using this salt medium, is the way to go for the whole nation – as well as holding excellent potential application for the military in the field. A string of 100 such plants across the Sunbelt in the US that are each 10.5 miles on a side can provide all the electricity the nation now uses day and night regardless of the weather. Sound unbelievable? Check this out: http://2greenenergy.com/solar-thermal-leader/2534/

    I have to say I’m really impressed by the extent and variety of the coverage on CleanTechnica, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn from and share with other like-minded people here.

    Craig Shields, Editor, 2GreenEnergy.com

  • http://www.Utility-Savings.com Charles R. Toca

    Now they just need to add energy storage so they don’t have to ramp the generators up and down when the clouds cross the solar PV or the wind is gusting.

  • http://www.movebeyondgreen.com Brian Smith

    Being able to generate power in the field and to reduce dependence on the logistics tether is a key for US forces operating overseas. Part of the driver is the need for energy security and part is the need to maintain operational flexibility. Developing alternative fuel sources lowers the exposure of US forces to rapid shifts in global energy markets and gives them some more control over the availability of energy. Encouraging efficiencies creates operational flexibility by providing more alternatives in the field and reducing the restrictions on commanders’ initiative created by logistical constrains. Sustainability of US forces has the potential to be a significant force multiplier by reducing the forces required to protect convoys and supply routes.

  • Frank Hanlan

    It would be interesting to know if any of the other NATO forces are doing anything similar.

  • http://www.thekpv.com electric vehicle

    Nice idea… mobile solar farms ???

  • http://movebeyondgreen.com Jared

    Tina,

    You’re hitting the nail on the head with these posts about DoD’s initiatives in sustainable energy. I like the competitive spirit and technical capabilities that the armed services bring to this critical issue, and I’m glad to see them being recognized for their efforts. I think Americans have begun to see the events that you speak of (Gulf spill, TVA disaster, etc.) as legitimate threats to our security, and we have definitely felt the impacts on our daily lives. DoD sustainability is critical for a number of reasons then- their massive use alone demands it, and they are of course also the defenders of our nation. It’s an interesting relationship, but the two groups have certainly found plenty to talk about (and agree on). Keep up the good reporting!

    V/r,

    Jared

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