The Department of Defense has just awarded the California-based solar company Cogenra a $2 million contract to demonstrate its solar power cogeneration system at two military bases in the U.S., with an eye toward introducing the technology on a wide basis, including overseas forward operating bases. The idea of using solar energy in a potential or actual danger zone may seem a little off, but regular readers of CleanTechnica may recall that the U.S. Marine Corps has been using solar power in Afghanistan, and the military has been introducing various portable and shippable solar devices including a flexible solar power tent, solar-in-a-backpack kits, and solar panels that pack up like suitcases.
A Solar Power Cogeneration Twofer
Photovoltaic cells normally produce a lot of heat along with electricity, and too much heat interferes with the cell’s ability to reach its maximum efficiency. In conventional solar technology the system is tweaked to mitigate excess heat and/or the excess is shunted off as waste. Cogenra’s system harnesses the waste for heating hot water. The cogeneration technology is ideal for private sector facilities where hot water is in heavy use, such as corporate campuses with onsite fitness facilities, and the military equivalent would be bases where troops are housed.
Solar Cogeneration and the Big Picture
The new contract calls for Cogenra to install its technology at the Port Hueneme Naval Base in Ventura County, California and the Army Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin, California. Cogenra won the contract under a competitive program, joining 26 other projects that were chosen out of hundreds for the Department of Defense’s 2012 Installation Energy Test Bed Initiative. DOD has been running the Energy Test Bed program since 2009 with the aim of trying out advanced energy technologies in real-world conditions. The idea is to spot systems that not only perform well in a test, but that can be standardized and installed at multiple DOD facilities under a wide range of conditions.
Solar Power Under Fire – For Real
On top of Cogenra’s upcoming demonstrations at the two California bases, in September the company was among a small group showcasing new energy technologies at an experimental Marine Corps forward operating base under extreme desert conditions. It was selected for additional assessment, which according to a company press release could lead to its “expedited deployment at Forward Operating Bases around the world.”
Military Pushing for Strong Solar Power Industry
One of the Energy Test Bed goals is to “facilitate wide-scale commercialization” of new energy technologies – in other words, to support the growth of the domestic alternative energy industry. The military’s promotion of a U.S. industry is hardly a radical twist. It’s right in line with the military’s traditional reliance on strong U.S. industries to support its mission, including the petroleum, aviation, and automotive sectors, all of which have benefited from intensive taxpayer support in many different forms.
Image: 3/5 Dark Horse Marines use solar power at Afghanistan base, credit: courtesy of U.S. Marines.