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Solar Panels Let U.S. Marines Cut Fuel Consumption by Nearly 90 Percent

Reducing the need for diesel generators improves security and decreases the need for supply convoys.
January 17, 2011

A U.S. Marine regiment in Afghanistan has used solar panels to reduce the amount of diesel it uses in generators from 20 gallons a day to just 2.5 gallons, according to a news report from the Marines.

“Our generators typically use more than 20 gallons of fuel a day. We are down to 2.5 gallons a day,” said [Staff Sergeant David] Doty, 3rd Squad Leader, with 1st Platoon, ‘I’ Company, and Fulton, Mo., native. “The system works amazing. By saving fuel for generators, it has cut back on the number of convoys, meaning less opportunity for one of our vehicles to hit an IED.”

The panels are used to recharge batteries for laptops, radios, and lighting. They’re part of a program called the Experimental Forward Operating Base (ExFOB).

According to Staff Sgt. Greg Wenzel, 1st Plt., platoon sergeant, this has helped PB Sparks’ security when the sun goes down. “It’s way more tactical not running the generators at night,” said the Altoona, Pa., native. “At night the noise of a generator can carry a long way, become a calling card for insurgents.”

“When we first got the gear, I was a skeptic. As Marines, we do not always like change. I expected ExFOB to be a burden,” added [Gunnery Sergeant Willy] Carrion, a native of Philadelphia. “Now that we are in theater, and we have so many [patrol bases] set up, we all see the how crucial and important renewable energy is. Every infantry battalion should have the ExFOB, it has proven to be an extremely valuable asset!”Some experts have suggested that the military’s use of alternative energy, including solar panels and biofuels, can help lower costs by increasing the scale of manufacturing, helping these technologies compete with conventional sources of energy.

Some experts have suggested that the military’s use of alternative energy, including solar panels and biofuels, can help lower costs by increasing the scale of manufacturing, helping these technologies compete with conventional sources of energy.

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