MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Forward operating bases are dependent on fuel supply lines to run the generators that provide power.
If enemy forces interrupt those logistics lifelines, energy for vital communications equipment can be compromised, degrading combat readiness. Generators powered by auxiliary power units and concentrated solar technologies eliminate the need for liquid fuel sources.
Stakeholders from across the Marine Corps’ requirements, acquisitions and technology development communities came to the Experimental Forward Operating Base held at Camp Wilson this week to check out how their energy efficient experiments are holding up in the extreme desert environment.
“There’s been an understanding for some time within the Defense Department we could be doing better for our soldiers, our Marines, sailors and our airmen,” said Sharon Burke, the assistant secretary of defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs. “The tactical edge technologies and the volume of fuel we are using, we could get better capabilities for our folks that are deployed.”
Twelve vendors were invited to demonstrate products in three categories: auxiliary power units, high capacity alternators and concentrated solar power. Each of the three technologies focused on reducing the requirement for liquid fuel while providing increased power output.
Tactical-wheeled vehicles are one of the largest consumers of fuel, especially on idle.
The auxiliary power units and high capacity alternators provide energy to on-board systems, while reducing the vehicles’ fuel consumption.
Also showcased during the ExFOB were various types of concentrated solar harvesting equipment. A step above the typical flat panel solar array, these products track the movement of the sun. The small panels produce more power per square inch than a standard flat panel. Solar arrays not only produce power, but also provide hot water at remote bases.
The products demonstrated this year may not be ready for deployment, but that does not mean they didn’t add to this year’s ExFOB success.
“[ExFOB] is an opportunity for the industry to showcase what they currently have,” said Maj. Patrick Reynolds, the branch head, Logistics Combat Element Technology Division, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. “There is also an opportunity for the Marine Corps to shape what [the industry] is doing.”
Several solutions provided by last year’s event are already in use by Marines in Afghanistan. Two patrol bases that are forward deployed are currently operating entirely on renewable energy. A third patrol base is operating at 90 percent reduction in fuel and a three-week foot patrol was executed without battery resupply which reduced the weight load by 700 pounds.
“Renewable energy sources reduce the amount of fuel infantry Marines were using providing them with more flexibility,” said Maj. Sean Sadlier, logistics analyst, Expeditionary Energy Office, Headquarters Marine Corps.
“Combat effectiveness is flexibility on the battlefield,” he added. Sadlier was recently deployed with equipment from last year’s ExFOB.
Increasing energy efficiency and using renewable energy sources extends a Marine unit’s sustainability in an expeditionary environment, making for a leaner, light force.
“We’re looking for the ‘killer app,’” said Sadlier. “This is just one process the Marine Corps is using to accelerate that process.”
Since ExFOB provides industry with opportunities to demonstrate new capabilities, the annual event helps quickly move commercial technologies from concept to combat.
“It’s a problem of how do we get from what we know to what we can do,” said Burke. “I think the ExFOB has really moved forward with that. Taking what we know and getting it to what we can do and actually in the hands of the Marines in the field, that’s what this represents.”