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Published on December 11th, 2009 | by Tina Casey


U.S. Marines Go GREENS with Portable Solar-in-a-Suitcase

December 11th, 2009 by  

The U.S. Marines are using a new 300-watt portable photovoltaic system called GREENS to power operations in the field.

While some in the civilian world are still pitching the “drill baby drill” approach to future energy, the U.S. Marines are betting on portable, sustainable energy-harvesting systems like a new 300-watt photovoltaic and battery arrangement called the Ground Renewable Expeditionary ENergy System, or GREENS.


For ease of set-up the GREENS solar panels fold out of frames that resemble metal suitcases, which also double as a durable transportation platform.  The system was developed by the Office of Naval Research in just over a year, in response to a request by Marines looking for a renewable power system to support field operations in Iraq.  It’s also one sustainable solution to the ever growing need for energy to power military field computers and other portable electronic gear.

The GREENS Solar System in a Suitcase

The suitcase-based design is an elegant solution to the need for a speedy set-up and dismantling in the field, but what is truly revolutionary about the system is the U.S. military’s clear identification of renewable, on-site harvested energy as the fuel of the future for field operations.  The system consists of stackable 1600-watt solar arrays combined with rechargeable batteries, to yield 300 watts of continuous power.  In a demonstration video of the GREENS system, the narrator states that “the 300-watt renewable system will provide a valid alternative to small generator use in the field and GREENS will cut down the tremendous logistic train it takes to deliver power right now.”

About That Logistic Train: Solar vs. Fossil

The Pentagon recently placed a price tag of $400 per gallon to deliver gas to remote outposts in Afghanistan, and that’s not counting the human cost of manning and defending convoys to deliver the fuel.  The irony is that high-tech electronic equipment is defining the war of the future, but for the most part it is still being powered by fossil fuel technology that dates back 100 years and more.  It’s no accident that the U.S. military and military veterans are pushing hard for the sustainable energy of the future, and it seems like some of us civvies have a lot of catching up to do.

Image: Suitcase by bibendum84 on flickr.com. 


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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+.

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