MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines, long known as innovators, are using cutting-edge energy technology that promises to make them leaner, meaner and a whole lot greener during an Experimental Forward Operating Base exercise at the Combat Center
Experiments like EXFOB are part of Gen. James T. Conway, the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ vision to ensure the Corps remains the premier, self-sufficient expeditionary force.
Marines from Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., are the first military unit to use nothing but renewable energy to power their systems, as they take part in Enhanced Mojave Viper, a month-long combined arms pre-deployment training exercise, here.
The Marines used the Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy System, or GREENS, a portable power system developed for the Marine Corps which uses rechargeable batteries and solar panels to provide 300 watts of continuous electricity for Marines in remote locations and lessens the need for fuel resupply, reducing the associated threats to vehicle convoys in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a Navy fact sheet.
“It’s going to make Marines more lethal because they will be able to move from one place to the other without having to wait for a logistics convoy to follow them around on the battlefield,” said Capt. Adorjan Ferenczy, an engineer officer at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. “As technology develops we may even be able to eliminate the use of fossil fuels on the battle field.”
Marines used other high tech gear, including more durable, lightweight, and user-friendly tents, energy efficient lighting systems, and PowerShades, field shelters with embedded solar panels that provide one to two kilowatts of energy to power radios, laptop computers, lighting and ventilation systems.
This technology offers more than agility and efficiency, said Ferenczy, a Detroit native.
“The majority of casualties in combat right now are from IEDs and Marines delivering supplies to the troops who need it,” he said. “By reducing the amount of fuel and water transportation, we can take vehicles off the road, which we believe will save Marine lives.”
During EXFOB, Company I ran their equipment on solar and battery power for more than 192 continuous hours. This led to a saving of approximately eight gallons of fuel per day, which would have been used to power generators and vehicles, Ferenczy said.
The low-levels of maintenance required to run the system has also been a substantial benefit as well, he said.
“These are very simple systems,” Ferenczy said. “You’re not always worried about doing preventative maintenance on a generator or vehicle to power the [command operation center].”
Sergeant Gregory Wenzel, an intelligence analyst with Company I, who has been on six deployments and has seen the many ways Marines use to power-up, said this expeditionary energy system is the best.
“As far as disadvantages, I really haven’t seen any,” said Wenzel, from Altoona, Pa. “You don’t need any fuel, it’s much quieter than a generator but can still power any electrical asset you need.”
First Lt. Stephen Cooney, the executive officer of the company, said he was in awe of the array of benefits the solar sources provided for his Marines.
“As far as benefits go at the company level it’s easy to see,” said the Sacramento, Calif., native. “You have virtually no issues with power, and you’re supplying everything internally.
“The Marines gain so much too from having the [PowerShade],” he said. “They have shelter during the day when they’re not training or operating and they have lights at night as well.”
Ferenczy said the technology is still being closely monitored and evaluated, but he added that after the testing is complete, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan with this new technology this fall.