By Keith Heyde
The greening of the U.S. Military has been a slow process spanning the last 20 years. Due to the unique and economically independent nature of the military, combat related technologies have an ideal ‘testing lab’ before they are subjected to the warzone that is the free market (see what I did there?)
These technologies have ranged across the board.
One of the most active areas of development comes in cutting the operational fuel draw that most military vehicles incur. Planes in particular require an extraordinary amount of fuel to operate at the high levels of performance for which they are known. However, it goes without saying that the United States does not have an infinite supply of oil for jet fuel. As such, the air force in conjunction with the Navy recently signed a contract to increase the production of biofuel for their flight missions. This was spurned after the military invested substantial capital in developing biofuel compatible engine adaptions. This contract looks to make the prospect of a green fueled military a reality very soon.
However, it should be noted that fuel production is not the only sphere where the U.S. military has made advancements in the green community. In the realm of alternative energy, the U.S. military has always been at the forefront. For a long time, the solar panels we now see commercially were used almost exclusively in military applications. Even today, the military is pushing the edge by advancing ocean wave power technology, particularly in its Hawaii base.
Hybrid technology too has been a favorite among military green circles. Recent designs of hybrid tank technology has paved the way for a more mobile and nimble ground force. Not only does increasing productivity of hybrid combat vehicles decrease the need for supplemental fuel, but it also diminishes the importance of vulnerable support and convoy lines.
And finally, there are the pushes made in the fields of hydrogen fuel cells. Because of the relative lightweight of hydrogen, it would mean that small planes and drones running off of hydrogen would require less propulsion to stay flying. Consequentially, the military has pursued using fuel cells in their drones. The decrease in weight means that a plane which would typically only be able to fly for about 8 hours can now fly for close to 15 off of comparable hydrogen fuel stock.
It should be noted that the military is also pursuing mixed hydrogen-solar options to create even smaller and lighter drone options.
Either way, it is interesting to see how both the academic and military realms have spurned and propagated green technology, while simultaneously being the most excessive of energy spenders.
Hopefully the odds will even out a bit?
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