Portable solar chargers have become relatively cheap and readily available, and can be a lifesaver if you need to charge your phone or tablet on the go. For Marines in the field, the devices can be literal lifesavers: troops rely on a whole host of electronic devices to do their job, and, normally, have carried spare batteries with them (3-4 days worth). That creates a lot of weight on individual Marines; it also creates greater demand for supply convoys that can come under attack by insurgents, as, traditionally, fuel-powered generators have served as the only recharging option.
But can a lightweight, flexible solar panel withstand the demands of battle? The Corps decided to find out, and started testing such devices in training settings in the Summer of 2010. This year, India Company (Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment) took them into real battle situations in Afghanistan’s Sangin valley. The results were positive: Marines were able to keep their devices running and significantly cut the amount of replacement batteries they had to carry.
The portable chargers are just one element of a larger drive for renewable power within the Marine Corps: the same company also experimented with larger solar panels at their base of operations, and the Corps hopes the success they saw with both large and small solar technologies moves them towards their long-term goal of only needing to deploy mobility fuels by 2025.
Oorah! Check out the video above for more details about India Company’s experience with solar, and let us know if you have other ideas about how the Marines (or other branches of the military) might operate more effectively with renewable energy technologies.