What’s Next: Use of solar energy by armed forces

As we know it

The private sector has begun its search for replacing its conventional energy needs via solar energy. This is because, driven by profiteering, the private sector is desperate to cut its costs and economize on energy usage. In his State of the Union address in January 2011, the US president Obama made it very clear that the public sector should start considering cutting costs on energy, especially in the military sectors. This has made the US Marines look seriously into the use of solar energy.

Solar energy by armed forces

The shortage of fossil fuels has hit every sector and the army is no exception. And the military of the nation has always been based on the country’s economy. The Naval Research Office has telling evidence to show that usage of solar energy will cut transportation costs, set-up time, labor and also be green and clean.

Need for a change





A war situation is something that we should avoid but in an unfortunate event of a war, there are important considerations. The supply convoys, which are often the targets of the enemy, mainly carry fuel for the camps. Reducing the dependence on fuels and making use of solar energy would definitely reduce the frequency and size of the supply convoy. Siege situations, when one is totally cut off, are not exempted from the sun’s energy! Having a free and accessible source of energy also reduces the burden of the individual soldier in terms of what he/she has to carry for survival. Solar energy will also be safer. Technology has automated spy planes and aircraft. But they still require fuel to move. And that problem can be solved by going solar.

Looking from a broader perspective, when a public institution that is as large as the military decides to support and adopt solar energy, it will surely have a rub off on the smaller industries and sectors as well. There will be more growth and research on the solar energy front and this will help the greater cause of a clean and green world.

Whats next





With sound logic and strong statistics backing them, the US Army has already made bold moves. Here is a sample.

1. US Army to generate solar power at Fort Irwin

Fort Irwin project

What’s new

The Clark Energy Group along with Acciona Solar Power will be developing projects for the US army to generate 500MWs of electricity from solar energy. This will not be a single solar power plant. The idea is to have several solar thermal plants and photovoltaic plants in Fort Irwin. The project will span about 14,000 acres of land and the budget for the entire project is a whooping $2 billion.

What difference will it make

The very fact that the army has opted for it shows that the savings it would produce would exceed the $2 billion it costs. Beginning in 2011, the project is projected to be complete by 2022. The excess energy produced will be sold to the private sector.

Problems





There is some serious real estate investment in the project. If there is the slightest hitch in the development or launch, there is no pulling out of the project. The US Army has gone ahead, all in, into the project. We can only keep our fingers crossed that all turns out well.

2. Solar Soldiers

Solar Soldiers

What’s new

A team constituted by 15 scientists from over 6 Universities are in the process of building light army suits that will convert solar energy into usable electric energy and store it. Thus, the harsh terrain that the soldiers fight on can be turned into an advantage via the small photovoltaic cells that are built into the suits.

What difference will it make

These will reduce the dependence of the soldier on the heavy batteries that he has to otherwise carry in his backpack. The dream would be to totally eliminate that dependence. The solar energy captured in the suits could also be used for thermo-regulation, keeping the soldier warm at night and cool by the day.

Problems

This kind of complete dependence on solar power might go awry in times of a bad climate or when one has to live in bunkers, cut off from the sun.

3. US Army considering solar-powered winged vehicles for air attacks

Solar-powered winged vehicles

What’s new

Wars nowadays are increasingly being won in the minds rather than on the battle field. The experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has proved beyond doubt the technological superiority scores over everything else in an all-out war. And so, the USA plans to have solar birds that will hover the skies, unmanned.

What difference will it make

They will work as a team and destroy the designated targets apart from carrying out surveillance and spying tasks. They will be entirely powered through solar energy and their strength lies in high precision strikes.

Problems

Though the idea of powering aircraft completely through solar energy is an ideal, power-saving one, the fact that it is being used to perpetuate damage on humankind makes it wasteful!

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