By Holly Jordan
Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate
Providing power to remote military installations is a challenge under the best of circumstances, but if power is suddenly cut off, the situation can become critical. The Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate is researching ways to solve this problem through renewable and rapidly-deployable energy solutions.
Researchers from the AFRL Advanced Power Technology Office have embarked on a project to demonstrate rapidly-deployable, off-grid energy technologies for increased mission energy resiliency.
EARRS, which stands for Energy Assurance at Remote Radar Sites, is a year-long demonstration effort involving two different power generation technologies installed at isolated locations in Alaska and Hawaii.
In Kotzebue, Alaska, where the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center and 611th Civil Engineer Squadron operate a remote radar range 40 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the team is demonstrating an energy-harvesting wind turbine. Along the original Distant Early Warning, or DEW Line, this arctic location was once part of a line of radar stations set up to detect and warn of invasion by enemy forces. University of Dayton Research Institute personnel joined the AFRL team to install two wind turbines that are expected to generate 12 kilowatts of power to offset the grid load. The goal of this initial effort is to evaluate the performance of the transportable, easy to install turbines before recommending the addition of more units to cover the entire load. The AFRL team assembled and installed the 50-foot assembly in under four days with five people.
Meanwhile, more than 3000 miles away at another Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center and 611th Civil Engineer Squadron site, a new solar panel design will focus on the same basic principles. On Mt. Koke’e, Hawaii, the EARRS project will demonstrate self-sufficient, rapidly-deployable power-generation, along with a revolutionary lighter-weight and durable solar panel design. These new panels are capable of being shipped and installed quickly, and are impact-tolerant. The solar panels, developed by California-based Armageddon Energy, differ from traditional panels in that instead of being encased in glass, the solar cells rest atop a foam board and are encased with a transparent laminated coating. This assembly makes the cells 50 percent thinner and 33 percent lighter.
If successful, the APTO team will recommend the technology to Air Force Civil Engineering Center and other potential users for inclusion in Forward Operating Bases and deployment equipment packages. The added capability would make deployed forces more self-sustainable and energy-resilient, reducing the logistic burden of fossil fuels.
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