Marines turn to solar in Afghanistan

A year ago, the U.S. Marines said they were going into full production with some easy-to-set-up solar power systems, and would be putting them to use in the field. They weren’t lying.

The Marines now report that a logistics regiment has installed several Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy Network Systems (GREENS) – solar arrays with rechargeable batteries that can put out 300 watts of electricity – to provide critically needed backup power in Regional Command Southwest, an area of operations that includes Helmand and Nimroz provinces in Afghanistan.

It’s all part of a larger strategy, the Marines said:

“This installation is in step with the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Strategy and Implementation Plan that recognizes the direct link between energy efficiency and combat effectiveness. The plan calls for Marines to adopt new technologies and procedures to become less dependent on traditional energy sources. The more energy efficient the Marine Corps becomes, the more capable they are of operating in expeditionary environments.”

But how exactly do GREENS help the Marines?

Maj. Denny Meelarp said in a statement that one key use for GREENS is it at a pair of Role 2 medical facilities. These are clinic that receive injured service members right off the battlefield and stabilize them so they can be moved on to higher-level care.

And according to Meelarp’s colleague in Combat Logistics Regiment-15, Capt. Arun Shankar, “If [Role II clinics] cannot communicate due to a loss of power their ability to send and receive casualties becomes severely degraded. Lives depend on reliable communications nodes at these locations.”

GREENS, one of which the Marines said was installed at Forward Operating Base Shukvani in just two hours, provides an important layer of certainty.

“In the event of a power outage, users simply unplug network switches from the wall and plug them into the GREENS,” Shankar said. “Unlike a backup generator, the GREENS requires minimal maintenance.”

Pete Danko, EarthTechling