This is the sort of non-hippie green power solutions I can get behind.
US marines go to war in Afghanistan with solar cells embedded in their rucksacks, efficient enough to recharge lithium-ion batteries for radios and greatly lighten loads.
Field patrols will soon have almost weightless solar blankets as well. These will be able to capture a once unthinkable 35pc of the sun’s light as energy with thin membranes, a spin-off from technology used in satellites.
This new kit is a military imperative. Taliban ambushes of supply convoys are a major killer. The Pentagon says the cost of refueling forward bases is $400 a gallon.
The US Naval Air Weapons Station already relies on a 14 megawatt array of solar panels in California’s Mojave desert for a third of its power. Pearl Harbour will soon follow as the Pentagon goes off-grid, better shielded from enemies.
The US Navy will derive half its energy supply from renewables by the end of this decade, according to a report entitled Enlisting the Sun: Powering the U.S. Military with Solar Energy, by the US solar industry (SEIA). It may be a stretch to say that the US Naval Research Laboratory is the vanguard of the world’s green revolution, but not a big stretch.
“The US Defence Department is racing ahead. This could be like the semiconductor industry in 1980s where the military changed the game,” said Tony Leggett, chairman of Solarcentury.
People decry military spending, but a great many technological advances that we benefit from today have come from commercialisation of military applications.