Soldiers from the Kansas Army National Guard stationed in Djibouti have been using a tent tricked out with flexible solar panels for almost a year, and so far the reviews are stellar. Aside from providing the advantages of renewable energy, the tent has also proved to be more effective at blocking the sun than other shades and tents currently in use, and it has survived storms and other harsh conditions. The solar power tent was installed as a pilot project with military operations in mind, but given the harsh weather we’re having here in the U.S., it’s likely that solar tents will soon be part of the standard domestic equipment, too.
Solar Power Tents and Fuel Savings
The primary attraction of the solar tent is the fuel savings, mainly from reducing or eliminating the use of diesel generators. This single tent has already saved more than $230,00 in fuel, and the savings ripple out to include reduced transportation costs as well as a reduction in repairs and maintenance typically needed by diesel equipment, which in turn leads to a more efficient allocation of manpower. While the Djibouti base is relatively easy to access, the logistics of solar power become an even stronger attraction in mountainous regions and other hard-to-reach areas.
Solar Tents…With Benefits
The soldiers are also discovering that the tent has a couple of additional benefits. Compared to diesel generators, which emit noise that can add to background stress, the solar tent operates silently. It also blocks up to 80 percent of the sun, so it provides cooler shade than the typical tent, and that in turn reduces the need to operate air conditioners.
Solar Power at Night
The solar power tent produces about 2 kilowatts a day, which is enough to run fans and hand-held radio chargers. It also runs lights at night, thanks to four batteries cribbed from the Hawker High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (aka, generically, the humvee). Night-time solar power might seem like an oxymoron but the solution is quite simple, at least on a small scale.
National Defense and Disaster Relief
Not to far from Djibouti, U.S. Marines in Afghanistan are using solar tents and other solar devices at a forward operating base, testing the reliability of renewable energy in combat. They are not the solution to every problem, but solar tents also have a place in disaster relief. They are easy to transport and maintain, they do not need refueling, and do not add to noise or air pollution in an already stressed situation.
Image: Solar tent installation in Djibouti courtesy of U.S. Army.
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