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More bases using solar power

May. 17, 2013 - 10:32AM   |  
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Stateside military bases are generating 130 megawatts of solar energy — a modest amount that’s only enough to power 22,000 homes, but still a step the solar power industry says is improving national security.

Ambitious plans call for solar power to make up 58 percent of the military’s renewable energy capability by 2017, according to a report released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The report, “Enlisting the Sun: Powering the U.S. Military with Solar Energy,” claims the military will not only have lower energy costs but also be better protected against cyberattack and storm-related power failures as solar power projects expand.

“On-site solar generation allows the military to be less reliant on aging transmission infrastructure and remote power plants,” the report says. A solar system with battery backup and either energy storage or a backup diesel generator creates what the report calls “island mode,” where a base could operate independent of the power grid.

The Navy has installed the most solar power generation projects, producing 58 megawatts of power as of early 2013, the report says. The Air Force and the Army each produce 36 megawatts, the report says.

By 2017, solar energy will produce 1.9 gigawatts of power for stateside bases, the report says, and 3.3 gigawatts by 2025.

Overseas bases and battlefield locations are not included in the count, but advances are being made in portable solar power for battlefield use, the report says. In Afghanistan, portable solar panels are helping to power security systems, and lighter-weight systems that can be carried in backpacks have been developed for powering equipment such as Global Positioning Systems.

The report claims solar power use on battlefields can save lives.

“By utilizing more solar energy, military leaders say they are not only saving money, but potentially saving lives, too, since solar is helping to reduce the number of truck convoys needed to transport fuel, which are frequently the targets of attacks by insurgents or improvised explosive devices,” the association says in a statement. “Over the past decade, there have been more than 3,300 U.S. casualties as a result of attacks on fuel convoys.”

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