Army tests solar
The Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center runs two solar projects that emphasize soldier-portable systems.
The Soldier Portable Photovoltaic Power Pack, or SP4, provides 55 watts and is used to charge 2590 military batteries. Those batteries are primarily used to keep communications equipment running. The SP4 folds into an 11-inch-by 9-inch package that can be carried in a rucksack.
CERDEC’s other solar venture is a AA battery charger that can be used with nickel metal hydride or cadmium sulfide batteries. The solar charger can power small radios, Global Positioning System units and personal items, such as handheld game systems.
Global Solar Energy created both devices for the Army. They are based on commercial products. The company adapted its solar technology to meet the Army’s specific needs, said Amber Kuhn, a chemical engineer at the battery branch of CERDEC’s Army Power Division.
More than 800 SP4s and 200 AA battery chargers have been issued for free to the field, Kuhn said. The free program has ended for the SP4s but continues for the AA chargers. Army units can now purchase an SP4 for $1,213 and a AA battery charger for $191.
Kuhn said feedback from the field has been positive. She said contractors have come up with different ways of using the solar technology. In Iraq, an SP4 is used to charge a battery that powers a rooftop surveillance camera. With the solar panel keeping the battery charged, no one has to go to the roof to change the battery — and expose themselves to possible sniper fire in the process.