Fighting a war on the ground in Afghanistan has to be one of the hardest things a young person can do.
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Defense, or DOD, is on the ground with our troops offering help and support – albeit in some very unexpected ways.
According to Tony Bui, an engineer with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC (located at Fort Monmouth, NJ), newly developed renewable energy devices will give U.S. troops more mobility, allow them to stay in the field longer, and protect the average soldier from exposure by ensuring that battery changes happen once in a blue moon. Literally.
The first is called REPPS (the Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System). Made up of flexible solar photovoltaic (PV) panels rated at 62 watts, it represents a continuous, portable power generation system that can be used to keep laptops and similarly sized electronics running in the field.
Charging can be done in five or six hours. For larger items – that is, larger than a laptop and smaller than a Jeep – REPPS units can be chain-ganged to deliver even more electricity, thanks to integrated power conversion technologies.
Another system, called RENEWS (Reusing Existing Natural Wind and Solar system), marries solar and wind energy and integrates inverter technology to allow soldiers to connect to the device through AC/DC (alternating or direct current) outlets.
Because the device also incorporates battery storage of electricity, RENEWS needs the combined muscle of two soldiers to transport. Even so, it provides all the electricity needed to power communications and surveillance equipment, even in the boonies, where vehicle and grid power often aren’t available.
Both are still in development, but thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act; 2009), 700 REPPS and 125 RENEWS will soon be headed to the troops in Afghanistan.
As Fort Bliss Commanding General, Howard B. Bromberg noted, “We are looking for game-changing technologies…”