Green News: US Army Goes Solar, Saves Lives

Solar Energy Helps to Save Lives


army, soldier not greenAn army is not usually known for being green and eco friendly.

But the US Army had a problem.

And renewable energy is helping to solve it.

It’s not because the Army wants to go green. But it’s working.

The Problem

Army bases need power. In remote areas this power is usually provided by diesel generators. Fuel for the generators needs to be trucked in.

In places like Afghanistan, those fuel supply truck convoys are vulnerable to attack, and casualties can be high.  In fact, protecting fuel convoys is one of the most dangerous jobs there.

“A fuel tanker can be shot at and blown up. The sun’s rays will still be there” noted one Army man.

So the US Army is now spending considerable amounts of money going solar, recycling water and using better-insulated tents.

Making a Difference?

To do a comparison:

One site in Afghanistan didn’t have enough fuel at one point to run the diesel generators, so they tapped Humvees for some power. This required soldiers to drive the vehicles around in the middle of the night to recharge the vehicle batteries.

armyCompare this with solar power. At another outpost, solar power fuels batteries which run lights at night – silently. As one soldier put it “That was the first time I slept through the night”.

The Army is not going solar because it’s green. Nor so that some soldiers can sleep better.

It’s because it saves lives.

Once solar power is set up and installed, it doesn’t need diesel fuel to be transported to it. The sun keeps on shining.

Fewer fuel convoys means fewer lives at risk.

And in some cases, the technology paid for itself within a year.

Other Changes

army soldiersThe Army also is using diesel generators more efficiently. Large generators are normally used, so sometimes you might have a 10-kilowatt load need being driven by a 100-kilowatt generator. Not only is that inefficient, but it also meant more fuel lines, leading to more casualties.

So some sites now use several small units instead of a few big generators.

army saves water in showerSome camps now use showers that curb water demand by a massive 75 percent – they recycle what flows down the drain. Every gallon reused is one less to be trucked in.

Irrespective of the green aspect, these changes simply make sense.

Totally Renewable?

There are times when renewable energy simply isn’t practical for the Army – sometimes it’s heavier and more fragile, and that causes problems when they need to move quickly. But for Army camps that don’t need to be highly mobile, it could be a good option.

Solar renewable energy for armyReasons

Using greener technology simply make sense for other reasons, such as saving lives and improving efficiency. There is also the US Government’s request to cut carbon emissions by 2020 – the Army needed to play its part.

But whatever the reasons, I’m glad to see any reduction in the use of fossil fuels. It’s better for the environment no matter why it’s being done.

What do you think? Let me know in the Comments below.

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  • Theo says:

    During my ten years with the Army I got to see the mountains of Afghanistan a few times. I am very happy to hear about this transition to solar as the constant drone of the large generators would keep me from restful sleep many nights. “Good” rest is a precious thing to service members.

    • Clare Delaney says:

      I’m delighted you stopped by Theo, it’s great to have feedback from someone who has actually experienced those conditions. I can’t imagine what it must have been like, and for sure a good night’s sleep is vital for duty the next day as well as general well-being during what must, I’m sure, have been stressful service. Thanks!