Alternative energy solutions encourage military self-sustainment

Solar panels of the ZeroBase FORGE provide power to the Soldier aid station of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, in support of the Network Integration Evaluation 12.2, being held at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., May 22. Photo by Sgt. Richard Andrade, 16th MPAD.

Sgt. Richard Andrade,
16th MPAD:

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. – An alternative energy source that may cut back the military’s reliance on JP-8 diesel fuel for vehicles and equipment is being evaluated this month under the unforgiving desert conditions of White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss.

Soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, are using the Net-Zero Tactical Edge Package to power their equipment in support of the Network Integration Evaluation 12.2.

The U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force initiated its “Net Zero to the Tactical Edge” effort in response to feedback from Soldiers, leaders and units in theater in order to make them more self-sustaining. Net-zero energy means an infrastructure or installation that produces as much energy as it consumes, resulting in a net usage of zero. The Net Zero initiative’s primary objective is to identify operational sustainment gaps without requiring additional ground or aerial resupply operations. The secondary objective of the effort is to provide feedback that will support senior leadership’s future policy and procurement decisions.

Capt. Andrew Kemp, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 6th Inf. Regt., is currently utilizing three power-generation suites to power his company’s equipment at WSMR.

Kemp said with the use of the solar panels he can charge batteries, operate computers, printers, light sets and basically anything found in a company or platoon command post.

Normally his platoon would rely on power from various generators which require fuel and regular maintenance. Kemp said the purpose of the systems is to reduce fuel usage and the maintenance cost of the generator issued to a unit. When a 5 kilowatt generator is running, it uses a set amount of fuel; but the unit may not be using the full 5 kilowatts of power which is wasteful.

“What these systems do is maximize the efficiency of the generator by storing any excess power that is not used at the time into a battery reservoir,” said Kemp. “What we do is plug into the battery reservoir and just pull that amount of power required so it minimizes the energy waste.”

One Soldier who said he does not miss relying on power from a generator is Staff Sgt. Marcous Kim, a health care specialist, also assigned to HHC. Kim is using the ZeroBase FORGE to provide power to the Soldier aid station he is in charge of.

“It’s very mobile, it has enough power to run everything we have in the aid station, it runs all day, all night and we haven’t drained it once,” said Kim.

Another aspect of the solar panels is they do not have to rely on using JP-8 diesel fuel.

“It totally eliminates the use of JP-8, and even with the generators running, there are no fumes in here (the aid station); also it’s a lot quieter, making it more tactical,” said Kim.

The use of solar energy should reduce military units’ dependence on ground and aerial resupply operations, making them more self-reliant.


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