War has long gone high tech. While we may not yet have artificially intelligent robot soldiers, plenty of innovations have made our soldiers more reliant on electricity. Modern forces are in need of reliable sources of this power to successfully complete their missions around the world. The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) is working on solutions to meet that need.
Working with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, they hope to create "a totally deployable, self-sustaining power system." They are making significant progress with a mobile renewable power station. The station is housed in a 10-foot long trailer and relies on a combination of batteries and solar panels. “We are taking what we learned and applying it to a rapidly deployable system,” says Air Force 1st Lt. Jason Goins, a project engineer. “We are looking at something that will be set up and deployed in an hour. If you can power a shelter in 30 minutes with affordable solar and wind, that’s spectacular.”
The system is known as a microgrid. According to the APTO's description, "Monocrystalline silicon solar panels are placed on top of each tent for energy production. A trailer, at center, holds the hardware, software, and lithium ion batteries that form the smart grid and provide energy backup should the grid fail."
Having such technology in the presence of military operations provides some unique obstacles that your average solar farm may not have to consider. For this reason, the APTO is also working on making the solar panels bulletproof.
Renewable sources of power allow for a lot more than just a cleaner Earth: fossil fuel power generation simply can't produce the kind of power possible with this type of technology. Diesel generators require constant refueling, which would be a serious physical burden on any mission.
The APTO plans to continue testing the tech and work with the Army to provide the best energy solutions for the U.S. military.