Portable Solar News – The U.S. Army has a long history of embracing portable solar power as well as fixed solar arrays deployed around the world. However, they are now using portable solar to supercharge the troops in the field like never before. Recognizing that Solders on long field deployments need a better means to recharge communication batteries, they have developed and refined a new portable solar charger that harnesses and stores solar power for batteries making field communications safer. Read More Solar News -
U.S. Army — The Army has begun deploying to Afghanistan battery recharging kits that run on portable renewable solar energy.
Developed by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s communications electronics center here, the Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System, or REPPS, combines solar panels, connectors and adaptors for increased charging options.
The 10-pound REPPS is portable and uses a flexible, 62 watt, anti-glint solar panel. Moreover, REPPS can charge the most common military battery types in five to six hours of solar exposure. If devices with higher power need to be charged, several REPPS may be daisy-chained together maximizing solar energy, officials said.
Ultimately, REPPS will not only facilitate the Soldiers’ mission, but will also help save lives, said Tony Bui, an engineer with the Army Power Division of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.
“[It] reduces the enemy’s detection because before, troops would have to constantly go [to their vehicles or the nearest tactical operation centers] and replace batteries, and then give away where they were hiding,” said Bui.
REPPS evolved from the Soldier Solar Photovoltaic Portable Power Pack, or SP4, a simpler technology that consisted of a solar panel with only battery charging capabilities. Comparatively, REPPS “is capable of a whole spectrum of delivering portable solar power and battery charging,” Bui said.
It has a larger portable solar panel and far more connectors and adapters that allow for new functions such as AC to DC conversion and pass-thru assembly, which enables batteries and external devices to be charged simultaneously, he explained.
The first shipment of REPPS was sent to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar, Afghanistan, July 8.
So far, Bui has received positive feedback on REPPS solar packs from Soldiers who have used the portable solar kit out in the field.
“The feedback that we have received from units who have used the portable solar packs is overwhelmingly positive. Feedback from the units ranged from ‘reduced fuel consumption’ to ‘provided a charging source for reconnaissance missions.’ The units expressed great content with the ease of use, ruggedness, durability and operational flexibility, extending their capabilities,” he said. Portable solar power is here to stay.
Technology that relies on renewable solar energy is a critical focus area for CERDEC Army Power. Not only is renewability important because it’s convenient and sometimes even essential when Soldiers are operating in areas that are far removed from main power distribution lines, but also because it addresses the problems of rising fuel costs and the security safety risks associated with delivering fuel.
Accordingly, Bui said he believes that REPPS and similar portable solar and fixed solar panel technologies have a bright future.
“A reduction in portable solar photovoltaic product size, weight, and cost could translate into a significantly increased user acceptance by the U.S. Army in the near-term. Over the long-term, a reduction in operational weight and lifecycle cost could be realized over current non solar tactical power generation battery systems. With the advent of solar photovoltaic systems, an energy-independent Warfighter will enable reduced logistics and improved readiness in future U.S. Army operations,” he said.
More REPPS portable solar packs are scheduled to be sent overseas in the near future.