In 2006, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, commander of Multinational Force-West in Iraq, had had enough of his troops being blown up while driving fuel-laden supply convoys to small outposts. He requested a “renewable and self-sustainable energy solution . . . to augment our use of fossil fuels with renewable energy, such as photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines.” He wanted troops to produce their own energy and be freed from dangers of constant resupply.
While Zilmer’s request for 183 commercial renewable-energy systems would be denied, his request woke the Pentagon up to the energy needs that small, dispersed units have and the huge material and human costs of keeping them supplied.
And now in 2011, the Army and Marines are responding in a big way, equipping entire units in Afghanistan with solar “blankets” that allow them to recharge batteries and communications equipment on the fly, reducing the loads they have to carry on long missions. But that’s not all. They’re also sending fuel cells, “smart” generators, and drastically reducing the amount of fuel that large FOBs suck up. I’ve got a story about it over at DTI, please click on through and check it out.