US Army once again turns to clean energy

Last Fourth of July weekend, the U.S. Army‘s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Michigan experienced a power outage that halted operations of its laboratories.

Since then, TARDEC has taken the necessary precautions to ensure that such an event never happens again. The facility is installing the Army’s first solar-powered micro-grid, scheduled to be operational this spring.

The self-contained system will use fuel cells, wind, solar and “other energy sources” to power two system integration laboratories and lights for the parking lot at Detroit Arsenal. Depending on the facility’s energy demands, the micro-grid could also provide power to other arsenal users. 

According to Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment Dorothy Robyn, smart micro-grids like this one are an essential part of the Army’s energy security strategy.

“It allows us to be more energy efficient on a day-to-day basis,” Robyn said. “It facilitates the adoption of renewable technology, and most important, if the [installation] grid is disrupted, it allows us to continue to operate critical functions.”

The project will also feature a 5-kilowatt (kW) mobile solar generator and charging station for a smart plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle and a 100-kW tactical mobile vehicle charging system, which can charge up to four electric vehicles without requiring connection to the installation grid.

This technology, developed by TARDEC and private industry partners, was unveiled for the first time outside garrison headquarters last year at the Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii.

In addition to providing a sustainable source of back-up power generation, the project is part of TARDEC’s larger mission of serving as a testing laboratory for the Army’s ground transportation technologies.

 TARDEC’s laboratories provide system engineering, technical expertise and engineering leadership support for innovating the Army’s transportation infrastructure.

One of its hybrid vehicles, called the Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle (CERV), was recently showcased at the 2011 Indianapolis 500. CERV was demonstrated as part of the motor speedway’s first ever Emerging Technologies day, which included a hybrid and solar vehicle challenge.

CERV is equipped with an all-wheel drive and a diesel hybrid-electric powertrain that can produce over 5,000 foot-pounds of torque. The vehicle can travel 80 miles per hour and climb terrain with a 60% grade.

The project also fits nicely under the Army’s overarching goal to reach net zero water, waste and energy use. The Army recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collaborate on developing and demonstrating new technologies to help them meet these goals.