The US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) is developing renewable-energy based microgrids to power communications systems of soldiers stationed in remote combat outposts.
RDECOM Communications – Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (Cerdec) electrical engineer Marnie de Jong said the microgrids would facilitate the integration of different energy sources, such as panels or wind turbine and batteries together for more efficient use and storage.
According to de Jong, CERDEC is developing two systems, reusing existing natural energy from wind and solar (RENEWS) and renewable energy for distributed undersupplied command environments (REDUCE) systems, to provide alternative power sources for soldiers in combat.
Work on RENEWS started in 2009 in partnership with RDECOM’s Army Research Laboratory and Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, and the prototypes are being sent for operational assessments by soldiers from the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, and US Africa Command.
"The RENEWS system is completely renewable energy [with] solar and wind components," de Jong said. "It’s meant for smaller, mostly communications systems in very remote locations that are difficult to get to re-supply fuel or might be dangerous. It would be a self-sustaining system."
Work on the three-year REDUCE programme is in its early stages and the system is intended to be towed on a Humvee trailer, to assimilate renewable energy sources with traditional fossil-fuel generators thereby reducing fuel consumption.
The two systems are designed to lessen the soldier’s logistic burden and will also contribute to the army’s goal of increasing energy efficiency and lessening the reliance on fossil fuels.
"Soldiers will appreciate the ‘plug and play’ capability," Jong added. "They don’t need to be an expert in power systems. They can just turn it on, and it gives them situational awareness into their power systems."
The army expects the RENEWS and REDUCE systems to be complementary, resulting in power-grid technology that addresses power generation, distribution, load, renewables and storage.
Image: The RENEWS system developed by RDECOM scientists at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, US. Photo: courtesy of the US Army.