It 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.
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.
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. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.