The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) is designing the forward operating bases of tomorrow and a key component of any modern military operation is reliable power. The lab is looking to create a totally deployable, self-sustaining microgrid power system and a key component of such systems is solar power.
“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,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Jason Goins, project engineer. The system that’s currently in development will use the renewable energy sources because they’re quick to deploy and silent—in terms of solar—and much quieter—in terms of wind—than diesel generators which have powered military bases in the past.
The system that’s currently being evaluated is housed in a 10-foot-long trailer. It includes a mobile hybrid energy storage and management system, according to the Air Force. It includes a microgrid command, control and communication software package and a battery unit that can act as a power source.
The lab has been researching and developing such systems for a while. “We learned a lot over the past year,” Goins said. “We demonstrated feasibility and where to go next in terms of making complete microgrid systems. Pieces of individual equipment have been demonstrated separately, and by combining them into a microgrid we learned how well they worked synergistically.”
Currently, the Air Force is exploring solar panels that remain operational even while withstanding bullets. Most solar panels are designed to be impact resistant to withstand the impact of hail and other things like falling limbs, but not bullets. The Air Force also is working to create a lightweight wind power package that could be deployed quickly.
Other branches of the military are also looking to renewable energy to power their forward operating bases, which are often in areas where conflicts are happening. Both the Army and Navy are working to use renewable energy in such operations as well. In addition to being quiet, they also eliminate much of the need for importing diesel to these camps, which is dangerous and expensive.Tweet