Intelligent Energy

A new hybrid solar-powered battery for Marines in remote locales

A new hybrid solar-powered battery for Marines in remote locales

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Marines, especially infantry battalions that are far forward in the field, face a slew of logistical challenges. Here's one new innovation that will help keep the lights on.

Marines, especially infantry battalions that are far forward in the field, face a slew of logistical challenges. The most critical -- and coincidentally, often the most challenging and expensive -- is ensuring they have a reliable power source. The Office of Naval Research has developed and deployed a portable power device that aims to end the hassle and expense of buying foreign fuel (and delivering it to remote spots) to operate traditional diesel and gas generators.

The Ground Renewable Expeditionary ENergy Systems -- or GREENS  -- is a portable 300-watt hybrid battery generator that uses the sun to produce electric currents. Stackable 1600-watt solar arrays and rechargeable batteries are combined to provide 300 watts of continuous electricity.

The military began working to develop the sun-powered generator in fall 2008 after receiving requests from Iraq for a portable renewable energy power device. The project was expedited and the first unit was tested in July 2009. The devices recently entered into full production and some of them are already in the field.

As you might guess, the devices are designed to withstand the kinds of harsh, rough and tumble environments that Marines often find themselves in. The device can handle temperatures of 116 degrees Fahrenheit without losing performance. Even under extreme temps, the system provided 85 percent of the rated energy, according to the Office of Naval Research.

Granted, this portable sun-power generator won't come close to ending the military's need for conventional fossil fuels. The Department of Defense is the single largest consumer of energy in the world, surpassing consumption totals of more than 100 nations. And it's expensive. Pike Research estimates the DOD spends $20 billion a year on energy  — 75 percent for fuel and 25 percent to power facilities and infrastructure.

Still, the efforts and others like it could eventually make a dent in the DOD's annual energy bill. The agency isn't holding back either. Pike Research estimates the agency's annual spending on renewable energy will reach $10 billion by 2030.

Photo: Office of Naval Research

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure