For the U.S. military, energy efficiency isn’t just about sustainability, it’s about saving lives.
A generator powered by the sun may be more fuel-efficient than a gasoline-powered one, for instance, but it’s also much quieter. Less noise means a soldier can power up a laptop or switch on a light bulb at less risk to revealing his location to potential enemy combatants.
It’s this type of strategic concern for its soldiers, combined with an awareness of its own energy consumption, that has driven the U.S. Department of Defense to release a plan for an aggressive military reduction in energy consumption.
According to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta:
Smart use of energy can be a strategic advantage for the U.S. military against our adversaries. As we continue to invest in the best military force to defend America today and tomorrow, I want the department to harness the best energy innovations at all levels, from the individual warfighter to the largest installation, to enhance our operational effectiveness and deliver more bang for the buck.
The chemistry industry plays an important role in the development of renewable and energy-efficient technologies and is proud to assist the DOD in achieving its sustainability and safety goals. Some of the most recent innovations (and a few still under development) include:
- Solar-powered tents made with flexible photovoltaic panels that can offer a shady respite while at the same time providing power to recharge batteries
- Portable fuel cell power packs that allow soldiers to plug all their gadgets in one place rather than carrying around heavy replacement batteries for each unique device
- Fuel cell tanks that would be gas-free and silent — important for keeping a low profile on the battlefield
In the near-term, DOD says it will continue to research and develop innovations to measure energy consumption in operations, improve performance and efficiency, and promote the development of alternative fuels.
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