Support: July 4, 2004


The U.S. Army has developed a partial solution to the growing energy shortage by making greater use of solar power. Troops in the field are using more electricity, because of the rapidly growing use of personal computers, PDA, GPS devices and much more. Many of these gadgets use rechargeable batteries, but the troops need juice to get a recharge. So the army is going to issue tents that have solar panel capability built in, using Iowa Thin Film's PowerFilm. This is a solar panel that you can roll up like canvas, or woven right into the tent fabric. Troops can carry small solar panels with them, to lay out in the sun when they have a chance, or larger ones can be attached to the tops of tents, and collect up to a kilowatt of power for the typical army tent (the stand up kind.) There is also more expensive solar panel material that can be built right into the tent fabric. The roll up panels, however, are seen as a boon to Special Forces and infantry that have to operate for days, or weeks, in the wilds of Afghanistan, or similar places. You can roll out a small panel on the back of your pack, and recharge your night vision gear batteries as you march along in the sun. Used on a large scale, these solar panels will greatly reduce the amount of tonnage in fuel and batteries that have to be shipped in. That makes a big difference, especially if its an out of the way place where everything has to be flown in. The first users of these solar panels will, or already are, the Special Forces. While the army has to wait a year or two until all the usual paperwork and approvals are done with, SOCOM (Special Operations Command), can go buy anything it thinks it needs, and start using it right away. 


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