Army says solar power helps protect US troops

Posted by Pete Danko, EarthTechling

The U.S. Army had a power problem, and the consequence was no small matter: Troops were left more vulnerable to sniper attacks. But now, the Army says, the use of solar and wind systems is keeping the power flowing and, as a result, helping reduce casualties.

These renewable energy sources are being used to power a surveillance system called the Hostile Fire Detection Sensor, or Firefly. According to the Army, Firefly “uses acoustics fused with short-wave infrared detectors to locate enemy shooters for more accurate return fire.”

Reusing Existing Natural Energy, Wind & Solar system, or RENEWS, offers options; solar was preferred in this case to charge the six-pack of batteries during the day. (image via U.S. Army/Edric V Thompson)

Reusing Existing Natural Energy, Wind & Solar system, or RENEWS, offers options; solar was preferred in this case to charge the six-pack of batteries during the day. (image via U.S. Army/Edric V Thompson)

These renewable energy sources are being used to power a surveillance system called the Hostile Fire Detection Sensor, or Firefly. According to the Army, it “uses acoustic fused with short-wave infrared detectors to locate enemy shooters for more accurate return fire.”

The Army started using Firefly more than a year ago in Afghanistan, but “deployment sites faced challenges in sustaining conventional power delivery to Fireflies along perimeter walls due to enemy attacks when Soldiers were above the wall line changing batteries.”

Enter the renewables:

The Reusing Existing Natural Energy, Wind & Solar system, or RENEWS, enables the harvesting and utilization of wind and/or solar power and is intended to produce up to 300 watts of energy field usage in silent, remote operations where the supply of power and fuel resupply is difficult or risky, noted Daniel Berka, an electronics technician in CERDEC’s Command, Power & Integration directorate, or CERDEC CP&I.

We first wrote about RENEWS when it was in development last year, as themilitary worked to find a microgrid solution that took advantage of renewable energy (and thus become less reliant on shipped in fuels). The system can come with a wind turbine, three 124-watt flexible solar panels, a power conditioner, an AC inverter, and a battery storage/charging unit that contains six BB-2590 rechargeable batteries — but it’s flexible.

“RENEWS offers options; solar was preferred in this case, using the solar panels to charge the six-pack of batteries during the day,” electronics technician Daniel Berka said in an Army press release. “We connected a cable from the RENEWS kit to the Firefly, giving them 1.2 kilowatts of continuous energy to run the Firefly system. There still was some maintenance to check the Six-Pack and clean the dirt off the solar panels, but the Soldiers are not going up there every day because the solar panels are within the walls, so they’re not exposed to enemy fire.”

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling