Enviro News - June 2009

Portable Wind Turbines for US Army

Posted by Environmental News Technology Analyst on 03/06/2009 - 16:30:00

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The US Army wants to adopt a new type of renewable energy-based technology, it has been reported.  Specifically, it wants to be able to draw on wind power to provide energy to gadgets and devices used on the front line, and is therefore requesting prototypes of small-scale, portable wind turbines.

In recent years, the US military has been placing more and more emphasis on developing and implementing environmentally friendly technologies.  The USAF has recently been carrying out test flights of aircraft powered by biofuels, while the US Army has exchanged many of its Humvees (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles) for newer, more energy efficient designs. The military has also set wind farms up at sites across the land, and trialled generators that draw on rubbish as a power source.

Prototype Wind Turbine Designs

Now, it is inviting submissions for prototype wind turbine designs, based on criteria that include the following requirements:

  • The turbine’s weight cannot exceed 45 pounds
  • The turbine must be able to be reduced to 12.5 per cent its operational size within four minutes.
  • The turbine must be durable and robust

It must also be able to function in extreme conditions, according to the US military’s request for proposals, which states: “The system is expected to operate in harsh weather environments including wide daily swings in temperature, sand and snowstorms, hail and rain, and strong winds in excess of 60 mph.”

The turbines would provide a power source to run systems like GPS and other electronic gadgets used to acquire targets - devices that, typically, consume around 100 watts, approximately equivalent to the energy consumed by a home PC. 

In terms of the extent that renewable energy would be used to power GPS and similar, the US Army has suggested that wind power could provide up to 100 per cent of its small-scale energy requirements, with substantial cost savings to be made along the way.  To put the cost issue into perspective, the price-per-gallon to transport fuel out to troops stationed in conflict zones can reach $400. 

US Military Environmental Policy

The wind turbines sought by the US Army represent a less ambitious programme than other aspects of the US military’s environmentally friendly policy, like the vast photovoltaic field at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base – a site capable of generating 30 million KW per annum.  However, as specified in the proposal, such devices could be widely drawn on for a variety of purposes.  These include “hybrid vehicles, electrical power for remote locations, backup power for telecommunication devices and computers, and forestry service sensors.”

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