Monday, August 22, 2011

Natick's Solar Shade Brings the Juice

Steve Tucker, Natick Engineer

It looks like the U.S. Army Africa is right on task with finding alternative solar mobile power sources, much like our Australian allies we posted last week. 

The Army has reported that a joint venture with Natick Research has developed a solar shade that not only blocks heat from pounding down on tents, but also collects the light energy and converts it to 2 Kilowatts of power on a daily basis.

The soldiers and Natick engineers also have it connected to a battery system for continual power through the night or in overcast conditions. The photo to the right shows one of the chief civilian engineers on the project, Mr. Steve Tucker from Natick with his multimeter hooked up to the power system to check its read outs. 

You can see the full shade below covering around 2400 square feet from an aerial photo and realize how much ground is shaded. Its roof comprised of over 70 panels that are extremely flexible for easy portability. 

The flexible solar panels are not has efficient at gathering sunlight as rigid photo voltaic cell systems, but has gotten the job done over the past year for the Kansas National Guard utilizing the shade with minimal maintenance and is noted to have an overall savings of $240,000 per year in comparison to petroleum based fuels utilized in power generators for similar purposes.

Photo by US Army Africa
This particular system seems very user friendly given the keep it simple approach. Given the ability for easy movement, you can utilize this much more effectively than small uniform mounted systems as in the case of our Aussie Allies. In fact this was something that came to mind in form of a tent or lean-to when we first saw the Australian National Universities uniform designed product.

The U.S. Army's Solar Shade will also not compromise the integrity of your camouflage when you go on patrols outside of your main operating base. This particular system can have a vast number of uses and could be a very commercially viable product assuming the prices is right. The shade takes a much more common sense approach to a portable solar power system and with its proven effectiveness could make for a much more lighter and energy efficient Army faced with operating in far flung parts of the globe where resources and infrastructure are scarce.