Switching to renewable energy isn’t just a way for American consumers to go green — it’s saving the lives of American combat troops. The Department of Defense is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States, much of it going into fuel convoys in the battlegrounds of Iraq and Afghanistan. But the military is taking steps to build a clean energy future.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a company of U.S. Marines in Afghanistan has outfitted their battle gear with solar panels, “replacing hundreds of pounds of spare batteries in their packs with roll-up solar panels the size of placemats to power their battle gear.” The India Company was chosen as the pilot company specifically because it was set to deploy in Sangin, one of the deadliest areas of Afghanistan. Solar power allowed the troops to move “faster and farther than before,” while cutting down on dangerous supply convoys:
Use of the solar gear means helicopters don’t have to ferry extra batteries to the Marines, and trucks don’t have to convoy more fuel for generators. Col. Charette said the gear “has surpassed our expectations.” Keeping extra batteries out of packs means the Marines can move faster and farther than before. Fuel use is down at the company’s patrol bases, because the solar equipment replaces generators, the military says.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has adopted an aggressive renewable energy standard for the Navy – aiming for half of its energy to come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020, while the Marine Corps wants to cut its fuel use in half by 2025.