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Aviation U.S. Army soldier in combat gear

Published on July 27th, 2011 | by Silvio Marcacci

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U.S. Armed Forces Creating Clean Energy Innovations

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July 27th, 2011 by  

U.S. Army soldier in combat gear

The Department of Defense has made headlines for using biofuels to power its’ planes and ships, but clean energy innovations may have a bigger impact by reducing the carbon bootprint of military while saving lives on the battlefield. New technologies are reducing the weight of equipment soldiers carry into battle, powering military bases, and creating a fleet of electric vehicles.

energyNOW! correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan looked into how the U.S. Army and Air Force’s emphasis on clean energy technology has built the largest solar installation in the Western Hemisphere, invented next-generation batteries and personal solar chargers, and brought extended-range electric battlefield vehicles from concept to reality. Check out his coverage here:

Solar power has, arguably, been the military’s brightest clean energy success story. Nellis Air Force Base, outside Las Vegas, is home to the largest solar array in the Western Hemisphere. The 72,000 solar panels at Nellis provide 25 percent of the base’s electricity and save the U.S. Air Force $1 million dollars a year in energy costs. In addition, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs boasts a solar array generating enough renewable energy to power 1,200 homes a year. Both are part of an effort to generate at least 20 percent of all Air Force energy needs from renewables by 2020.

Clean energy innovations are also making soldiers more mobile by reducing the amount of gear they need to carry into combat. The Army research Lab in Maryland is developing advanced batteries that weigh less and last longer than existing models. A prototype model can replace 10 lithium ion batteries, and the REPPS solar blanket can set up and start generating clean energy in under a minute.

The Army is also working on electrifying its non-combat vehicle fleet. The CERV light vehicle uses the same technology found in Fisker extended range electric vehicles, and are being eyed for medical evacuation duties. “If you have to go in on a mission to bring some injured troops back, and you don’t want the enemy to hear you, if you run silently off batteries, that’s perfect,” said Paul Skalny of the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Related stories:

  1. First Ever Joint Army-Air Force Energy Forum Confirms Fossil Fuels Are Fading Out
  2. Military Opposes GOP on Dirty Fuel Rule
  3. U.S. Army Has Net Zero Vision for National Security
  4. Legendary Air Force Thunderbirds Give Camelina Jet Biofuel a Workout

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.



  • Adam Hurwitz

    If the army took advantage of sustainable solutions, as Sergeant Major said in “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,”

    “it would eliminate putting soldiers on the road, and that is the most dangerous thing we do. Keeping people off the roads is the most important thing we can do . . .”

    In Iraq and Afganistan oil needs to be transported from base to base in order to support generators and transportation. Besides costing the exorbitant amount of money, the transportation of highly explosive materials puts the soldiers into dangerous situations that can easily be eliminated in the future.

  • MaeYodrin

    I understand that we need to be more self sufficient so that we are not spending oil money over seas and putting our national security in the hands of potentially hostile countries.

    However, i also see the military’s effort to become self sufficient as combating its second largest persistent enemy – a civilian congress that is often more concerned with bean counting then with reality on the ground, making promises for funding and then 4 months later demanding cuts.

    The military needs stability – in both its energy, and its funding. Money it does not need to spend on fuel, power, etc, is money it does not have to beg for hat in hand.

    • Adam Hurwitz

      Our military’s adoption of sustainable solution may have a bigger role in our nation’s movement to catch up with the rest of the world. Since policymakers are blind and stubborn to investing in sustainable solutions research and innovations that come out of our military to make them a stronger, more agile self-reliant fighting force will be the basis for larger scale commercial and personal adoption.

      Despite the cuts in our military budget, in comparison to funding in science and technology, the military is funded exponentially more. There are plenty more resources for our military to build and test these new technologies than many private firms and educational institutions have.

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