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Solar Tents Charging into the Army

A tipster sent along an interesting Army News Service article about a series of tests by the service to increase use of solar rechargers in deployed locales.

This is something the Marine Corps announced with great fanfare late last summer, saying they planned to deploy the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines to Afghanistan with portable solar panels, photovoltaic panels for tents and backpackable sun chargers for individual leathernecks.

Well it now seems the Army has jumped on the bandwagon with a variety of solar power options for tents and other shelters.

The U.S. Army is evaluating a host of flexible, portable, lightweight solar-powered shades and tent-like technologies.

The products are designed to allow expeditionary units to deploy with transferrable, exportable electrical power that can charge batteries, computers and other essential gear without needing fuel or a generator, service officials said.

Using a fast-evolving technology known as Flexible Photovoltaics (PV), the solar-powered tent structures convert light energy into electricity, thus removing the need to haul generators and large amounts fuel.

“They are ideal for charging up batteries, making sure your (communications), night vision goggles and computers are powered up. You don’t want a generator on top of a mountain, and you don’t want to have to bring fuel to a generator or haul batteries,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment.

The difficulty of moving fuel and maintaining generators in an AO like Afghanistan is tough on a good day -- not to mention the security problems that are part of simply moving from point A to point B. The Navy has made a major push into the world of "green power" and it's not surprising its "expeditionary" sister service has gone whole hog into the solar world.

That's why it's such a good sign the Army is getting serious about alternative energy as well. Just take a stroll through an AUSA or Modern Day Marine trade show and you'll see that what was once the expensive luxury of mountaineers who needed to recharge their sat phones for an Everest rescue is now fully proven and available at less Gucci costs.

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