When you think of the Marine Corps, the word ‘renewable’ probably isn’t the first thing to pop into your head. However, in fiscal year 2015, Marine Corps installations consumed about 5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources – enough megawatt hours (MWH) to power more than 10,000 homes for a whole year. This electricity comes from various sources, and solar power is the most visible – looks like the sun is good for more than just a tan!
The Marine Corps is a leader in solar energy in the Department of Defense, and its reasons for developing and using it go far beyond being ‘green’ – it’s about the mission. On base and in the battlefield, solar energy can increase overall readiness and mission effectiveness, leading to a safer, less-volatile operating environment for Marines.
On base: Solar energy helps to increase installation energy security and resiliency, while bolstering energy independence – a level of operational proficiency where energy is no longer a significant requirement that adversaries can exploit – by decreasing the Corps’ reliance on a vulnerable electric grid. If energy from a solar field can support a base when the local grid goes down, it will enable that base to continue to function.
- At Marine Corps Base Camp (MCB) Lejeune, an 80-acre, 55,000-panel solar field produces 17 megawatts (MW) of direct current – enough to power about 3,000 homes on a sunny day.
- About 500 miles south, a 150-acre, 138,000-panel solar field is under construction at Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) Albany. When completed in spring 2017, it is expected to produce 44 MW of direct current – enough to power more than 5,000 homes.
- Out west, a smaller, 189-panel rooftop solar field at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar helps to power a building used by the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron. This saves Miramar about $9,000 a year in electricity costs, while also helping it to meet the federal energy-reduction mandate.
- MCB Hawaii uses the abundant sun to its advantage by installing rooftop solar panels on family housing on base. It also uses solar energy to power critical facilities – such as the base air terminal and the aircraft rescue and firefighting building – so they can still operate if the grid goes down.
In the battlefield: Solar technology can increase operational reach and flexibility for Marines, while lessening the demand for fuel. This keeps our Marines safer by reducing the need for dangerous refueling convoys, and offering an alternative form of energy to keep crucial communications equipment and generators alive if fuel runs out.
- The Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy Network System (GREENS), a portable, solar-power-generation system, produces a continuous output of 300 watts (W) – enough to power a battalion combat operations center. It can also be used to power weapon systems in the battlefield, eliminating the need to turn on and idle vehicles for power or tow heavy generators. This saves critical time and fuel.
- Along with GREENS, the Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy System (SPACES) – a lightweight, portable, energy system designed to provide power to smaller units operating in remote locations – helps to increase battlefield effectiveness by recharging batteries needed for radios and other communications equipment. This keeps Marines connected when they need it most, and reduces the number of heavy batteries Marines have to carry.
As the Marine Corps continues to develop and implement more renewable energy sources and technology, solar energy will increasingly help support the mission on installations and power the Warfighter in the battlefield – you’re on your own for the tan.
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