Defense IT

Army bringing green energy plans to forward bases

Army portable FOB solar array

The Renewable Energy for Distributed Under-Supplied Command Environments array included a scalable framework of solar panels, upgraded energy storage devices and power management controls.


During World War II, the Army‘s deployed forces consumed about one gallon of fuel per soldier. In the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number was 20 gallons. That reflects a growing reliance on the technologies that make missions more effective and safer, but it’s also something the Army wants to cut back on.

The service has been installing renewable energy sources at installations around the world through programs like its Net Zero effort and has set a goal of having renewable sources account for 25 percent of its energy use overall by 2025. Now, it is extending that approach to forward operating bases in the field.

"If we are going to win in a complex world, we have to pay attention to the resource demands that we generate and we have to look at a way to increase our capability without increasing our resourcing footprint," Richard Kidd, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability, said in a release.

As with its energy efficiency efforts at permanent installations, the Army is looking to use less power and water, and create less waste, in the field while still meeting the needs of soldiers. Among the tools being tested are portable solar panel arrays that can be easily set up to supply some power and more fuel-efficient power generators that can be used to make plug-and-play grids that can be turned off when needed and turned off when not.

Even the makeup of shelters can come into play. Maj. Gen. Steven A Shapiro, director of plans, operations and distribution and assistant deputy chief of staff, Army G-4, gave one example concerning a base camp he visited atop a mountain in Turkey. High, cold winds were tearing tents, which couldn’t get warm despite generators running non-stop. "I have never been more physically cold in my life," Shapiro said. It was also a big waste of fuel. The solution: the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force installed rigid-walled shelters, which Shapiro said he wants to include in all future deployment packages.

The plan for better fuel use, part of the Army’s recently signed Energy Security and Sustainability Strategy, isn’t just a matter of energy efficiency. It’s also a matter of safety. Fewer resupply missions means fewer soldiers on those missions, which can often involve going to dangerous areas. Greater energy independence for deployed forces also helps the Army meet its stated goals for a resilient force, in which units are better able to take care of themselves.

"We still have lights, we are still eating—we don't want to change the quality of life," Shapiro said. "But we have to change the way we do business."

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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