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NATO Troops To Use Solar Panels And Wind Turbines During ‘War Games’

Starting in June, NATO soldiers will soon be taking to the field to test the effectiveness of using solar panels, wind turbines and other self-contained power grids on the battlefield.

For years, military experts have been debating the viability of using green energy on the battlefield to reduce reliance on oil and gas, which can fluctuate in price and must be convoyed to the front lines.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com reports that “1,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organization soldiers will spend 12 days deploying wind turbines, solar panels and self-contained power grids in Hungary.” The solar panels include fast-opening ones that “open within 10 minutes like flowers to the sun” as well as “highly insulated tents and solar-powered battery chargers.”

NATO says that 3,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks on fuel and water convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military officials have been looking for ways to reduce casualties while getting energy directly to troops on the frontlines and in forward bases. That’s nearly half of the American military deaths in those two war.

“A lot of people are crippled or die transporting fuel and water,” Susanne Michaelis, who is working with NATO’s Smart Energy, told REW.com. “If you attack a fuel truck, it explodes and burns all fuel. There’s no stopping it. If you shoot at solar cells, one may break, but it doesn’t explode and all the other cells will still be working.”

NATO troops will conduct wag games in which they will simulate loss of power, flooded roads and fuel and water contamination on the battlefield while air-dropping in green energy to a base in Hungary.

Green energy in the military has been a hot-button political issue. In 2012, Republican lawmakers criticized the Navy for using costly biofuels to power ships in its “Green Fleet.” Military experts also said that biofuels were too costly for the armed forces to replace conventional fuels.

But solar panels and wind turbines could allow troops access to power when convoys can’t get to them. The U.S. army already plans to install 1 gigawatt of green power at bases by 2025 and push for more energy efficiency.

“Armed forces in many countries are viewing renewables as an important option from the point of view of security of supply and diversity of energy sources,” Angus McCrone, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told REW.com.

Yet even solar and wind energy investments will be costly. There are also serious reliability problems to consider with solar and wind — namely that they are only valuable when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing without advanced battery technology.

The variable nature of wind and solar may limit their deployability. Nevertheless, NATO forces want to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels to try and save money and be more environmentally friendly.

“For renewables the return on investment is still a long time,” Michaelis said. “We get much more fuel reduction by installing microgrids, insulated tents and changing behavior.”

REW.com notes that along with “deploying solar, wind and biomass for power generation at permanent bases, the U.S. Department of Defense is using smaller-scale renewables like solar-powered battery chargers to cut weight and enhance the mobility of its troops.”

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