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Tactical Solar Shelter Story


In order to help meet the challenge of reducing the fuel requirements of the military deployed in areas such as Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq, ETI began a project to develop a unique solar offering. Up to this point, most of the solar power efforts for military bases in those regions consisted of permanent or temporary fields of traditional solar panels. They soon found that these types of solar installations required extending the perimeter of the base to accommodate the support structures and consequently had to be guarded as well. In addition, these panels are not well suited for tactical applications since they are bulky, heavy and fragile.

Working with Utilis USA, a soft shelter (tent) manufacturer in Ft Walton Beach, FL, ETI developed a flexible solar panel covering for their shelter. This covering, mounted directly above the shelter, was designed to produce power and shade the shelter from direct sunlight. This means that it produces energy and saves energy that would be required for cooling at the same time. Further it is doing it in a zero footprint since the shelters would be located within the base perimeter in any scenario.

In collaboration with the US Army and US Air Force, the first designs were tested at Ft Irwin, CA where the conditions are the similar to those in Afghanistan. The concept worked but the harshness of the environment (temperature, wind, dust, sun) destroyed the integrity of the product. Multiple iterations at Ft Irwin along with Twenty-nine Palms MCB, CA, Holloman AFB, NM, Tyndale AFB, FL, and locations in Costa Rica resulted in a product rugged enough to survive the harshest environments and still meet the energy goals.

The US Army and US Air Force are now in the middle of the final testing in “southwest Asia” before deploying on a larger scale. They have already shown that the net impact of this design is to reduce the number of air conditioners by half and correspondingly reduce the fuel needed to produce that power. With over 60% of the fuel going to generators to power air conditioning, this is a significant savings in fuel costs and reduces the number of fuel convoys in harms way which should save lives as well.
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