Clean Power U.S. special forces in Afghanistan use solar hybrid generators

Published on November 25th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


U.S. Special Forces In Afghanistan Give You 5 Good Reasons To Support Solar Power

November 25th, 2012 by  

U.S. Soldiers have been using solar power in the Afghanistan war for a couple of years now, with everything from solar backpack kits to large stationary arrays. One project especially worth noting is a group of ten 28-kilowatt hybrid solar/diesel generators that have been deployed for Special Forces Soldiers in remote outposts. When you tote up the benefits, it’s clear that solar power is a winner, at least in war zones.

U.S. special forces in Afghanistan use solar hybrid generators

1. Solar Power Saves Money

Richard G. Kidd IV, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability, recently described the project in detail for David Vergun of the Army News Service.

One key benefit, of course, is cutting down on the cost of fuel. According to Kidd, the overall daily fuel use per soldier averaged one gallon during WWII and now it has zoomed up to 20 gallons. A good chunk of that amount goes to electricity needed for powering today’s geared-up operations.

The hybrid solar/diesel units, provided by the company SunDial Capital Partners, cut that in half, to roughly 10 gallons.

Given the high cost of shipping fuel to remote outposts in Afghanistan ($400 per gallon, according to the Pentagon), it’s no surprise that the units paid for themselves in less than three months.

2. Solar Power Saves Planes and Trucks

Another consideration is the transportation resources required for conventional fuel distribution, compared to solar power and other renewable sources that can be scavenged on site.

By cutting down on fuel deliveries, the hybrid solar units free up aircraft and trucks for other missions. According to Kidd, the project has resulted in the equivalent of pulling 185 trucks out of fuel convoys.

In turn, that reduces the risk for Soldiers assigned to secure air drops and fuel convoys.

For a graphic look at the true cost of conventional fuel delivery in a war zone, check out the forthcoming documentary The Burden.

3. Solar Power Saves Wear and Tear

The lifespan and repair logistics of conventional diesel generators also compare poorly to the solar/hybrid units.

According to Kidd, the typical generator used by the Army often runs at only 20 to 30 percent capacity. That can enable unburned fuel to escape, which wastes fuel and damages the engine.

In contrast, the solar panels are linked in a smart microgrid. They can be taken offline and put back up as needed in order to keep the generators running at maximum efficiency.

The result is an improved lifespan for the equipment and less down time. It also frees up overburdened mechanics to work on other tasks.


4. Solar Power is Just Plain Better

SunDial’s system includes battery storage, and Kidd notes that stored energy is better suited to powering the high-performance electronic gear used by modern armies. That includes sensors, cameras, and communications equipment.

According to Kidd, operational readiness has “gone up dramatically wherever solar has been deployed.”

5. Solar Power Builds Strong Communities

Here in the U.S., the Army’s Net Zero initiative envisions alternative energy, water and waste management projects at Army bases that also provide benefits to their host communities.

That’s already coming into play in Afghanistan. Each solar hybrid unit is designed to provide energy for 30 soldiers, but Kidd notes that the units pump out enough for local villages, too.

The units are also fully mobile and transportable, which leaves the door open to relocating them to nearby villages when U.S. troops finally withdraw from Afghanistan.

Image: Courtesy of Army News Service

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey 
Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

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+.

  • Amarepax

    Don’t forget, it saves lives. Fuel conveys can be easy targets.

    • Good point! Yet another great reason to support soar power. This is also noted above under #2.

    • Sage

      Fuel convoys, not conveys.

Back to Top ↑
  • Advertisements

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Cool Cleantech Events

    Low Voltage Electrification Event, April 25-27. Detroit, Michigan (US)
    Delve deep into the benefits and challenges associated with EV power supply.

    Offshore Wind Market Development USA, May 11-12, Boston, Massachusetts (US)
    Network and establish your business in one of North America’s largest energy industries.

    Energy Storage USA, June 15-16, San Diego, California (US)
    Only event in the United States focused exclusively on the commercialization of storage.

    More details are on: Cleantech Events.

  • Advertisement

  • CleanTechnica Electric Car Report

    Electric Cars Early Adopters First Followers
  • Tesla Model 3 Review by EVANNEX

    Tesla Model 3 Review from EVANNEX
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Video

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Pictures

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model X Review #1 (Video)

    Tesla Model X Review from new owners Zach Shahan
  • Tesla Model X Review #2 (Pictures)

    Tesla Model X Review from Kyle Field
  • Tesla Model S Long-Term Review

    Tesla Model S Long Term Review from Kyle Field
  • Nissan LEAF Long-Term Review

    Nissan LEAF Long Term Review from Cynthia Shahan
  • Interview with Michael Liebreich

    Interview with Michael Liebreich
  • Interview with Akon (Teslas & Solar)

    Interview with Akon Tesla Model S Tesla Model X Solar Power Africa
  • Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany

    Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany
  • Interview with Gro Brundtland

    Gro Brundtland
  • Interview with President of Iceland

    President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
  • Interview with Nick Sampson

    Faraday Future VP Nick Sampson
  • Interview with Dipal Barua

    Dipal Barua 1st ZFEP WInner
  • Interview with Jonathon Porritt

    Jonathon Porritt
  • Interview with Clint Wilder

    Interview with Clint Wilder
  • Interviews with Solar Impulse Pilots

    Bertrand Piccard Andre Borschberg
  • Check out more CleanTechnica Videos.

  • Join The Solar Revolution!

    Edison-solar-energy solar-energy-spill-nice-day
  • Cost of Solar Panels

  • Search the IM Network