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The Military Power

Navy Bomb Squads Get a Solar Power Upgrade 56

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from TPM's Idea Lab: "The U.S. Navy's bomb squads have a weight problem. To keep their field gear powered up, the typical explosive ordnance disposal unit has to haul fifty pounds of specialized chargers and related devices around, creating an unwieldy and potentially dangerous drag on the operation. Now help is coming from an unexpected source: the sun. The Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit 2 in Virginia has been testing five prototype lightweight field power kits that include solar cells as a key component. The kits replace fifty pounds of equipment with a compact system that weighs only about nine pounds."
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Navy Bomb Squads Get a Solar Power Upgrade

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  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by pudding7 ( 584715 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @06:51PM (#37113240)
    I've been told repeatedly that alternative energy is just a Liberal tree-hugging pipe dream that destroys jobs and wastes money! Now you're telling me that we can wage more effective war by using solar energy? Well, consider my mind blown. Vote Republican! 'Cause anything else is treason!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by roc97007 ( 608802 )

      That's because most alternate energy schemes are just a Liberal tree-hugging pipe dream that destroys jobs and wastes money. That doesn't mean that there's no alternate energy scheme that ever works. It does mean that you tend to need big bucks and an overriding reason to make it work. Oh, like the military.

      An outbuilding on my property is a candidate for solar because there's no legal way to get city power to it (for reasons unimportant to this discussion) and -- oh yeah -- the neighbors wouldn't permit

      • Re:But... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @08:47PM (#37114130)

        Yes, it's Opportunity Cost. Long established economics concept used to weigh the various costs for various competing possible installations or concepts for achieving similar, compatible results.

        The beef that many of us have with this is not in the raw idea, which is generally sound, but in manipulation of markets that modify opportunity cost by pushing costs off on to others.

        There are two fossil-fuel costs one can consider as being pushed off. One is pollution or ecological damage pushed on to society and environment, which some will argue isn't a cost, and the other is subsidy granted to industry by government, which is itself a function of society, which ultimately pays for it.

        If subsidies for fossil fuel power sources ended and if the cost to obtain mineral rights both protected the surface owner and required payment to repair the ecological damage caused by exploration and extraction then obviously producing oil or coal would cost a LOT more than they do now. That's not even factoring other pollution generated by the refining or use. Granted, any power source requiring raw materials would incur some of these costs, like raw materials for the manufacture of solar panels or wind turbines, but the costs would be amortized across the years and years that the generating method were in place.

        Limited benefits like you discuss, like solar panels in places where achieving grid connectivity is hard, or adding limited wind generation can help, but fixing the markets to reduce subsidy could dramatically skew the numbers in favor of non-fossil-fuel means. There doesn't seem to the be the political will to actually do it though.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Germany, Japan and Italy seem to have the will as they have all sworn off new nuclear plants while also trying to move away from fossil fuels. Japan in particular has few fossil fuel resources, which is why they went heavily into nuclear.

          Both renewables and nuclear have a common problem. The companies that want to build new facilities are conservative and don't want to innovate too much. Innovation costs money and there is a risk that it will fail, so it is easier to sell the idea of building more of the sa

        • []
          "Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security is a 1982 book by Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, prepared originally as a Pentagon study, and re-released in 2001 following the September 11 attacks. The book argues that U.S. domestic energy infrastructure is very vulnerable to disruption, by accident or malice, often even more so than imported oil. According

      • Near my work is a skyscraper with five tiny wind turbines on the roof. I read in the local paper that they could, in theory, if operating at peak efficiency while fully load balanced with the building's requirements, which they'll never be because wind, durrrr, changes provide 4% of the building's power on windy days.

        EFA. Small wind turbines are in almost every case a complete crock, sold by scammers and thieves [].

    • What I want to know, in this case, is what they were fucking up before to go from 50 pounds to 9.

      Once you factor in support circuitry, enough structure to keep the cells from easy damage, and maybe a little battery to steady output, 9 pounds doesn't get you all that much panel area. And not that much panel area, especially in less than full sun, means not all that much power output. What were they doing with 50 pounds of payload before? A totally unexceptional, off the shelf, sealed lead acid deep-cycle
      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        I wouldn't be surprised if a "mil spec" power supply, converter, or whatnot is very heavily shielded. Military radios are, as are military computers. Think of a Panasonic Toughbook on steroids.

        Thing is, I'd bet some of the weight comes from cobbling things together without a thorough redesign. Frequently military systems are expanded and added on to without a thorough enough redesign, so weight can increase dramatically. This is in part because we don't want to break existing tried and true functionalit

    • Personally I'm against huge investments in solar power because not only are the economics not favorable yet, but the realities of storing and transmitting solar power (ignoring the actual panel efficiency and production costs, which still aren't great either) at the present moment make it only marginally useful in very isolated areas. Its not a realistic solution for this generation, no matter how badly anyone wants it to be. With large breakthroughs in battery technology (pretty likely), panel efficiency

  • They only disarm bombs during the day time and weather permitting...
    • I'm just amazed that the sun can be used as a potential energy source here on Earth. That part was completely unexpected. Who knew?

    • If you knew how to read you'd know that the kits also run on fuel cells if necessary. Both are an improvement over lugging diesel generators on your backs.

    • They only disarm bombs during the day time and weather permitting...

      Given that its *Navy* EOD you might want to add only bombs that are on land or at the surface. :-)

    • No, now they recharge batteries during the day. Remember that each disposable battery they deplete is at the end of an extremely long and dangerous supply tail. Remember also that each unit of fuel to run generators is brought by the same long tail, plus it is in a fuel tank truck -- aka 'Juicy Target'.
      Several years ago the military realized they needed a better option. These reports of new systems are the results from multiple efforts to make devices that suit the military environment and needs.

      • Interesting point. I hadn't considered the problems of the supply line. I now see the need for this technology in a whole new light (no pun intended).

        I read about this story yesterday, and that news article (which I can't find now to give the link) had a picture of someone wearing camouflage clothing with bright shiny solar panels affixed to their jacket. This picture may have just been a mock up for the news site, but it did show a potential flaw with this idea. It doesn't matter how much lighter you make

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        And the expensive solar panels are not a "juicy target"? Yeah ok maybe they don't go boom as nicely, but I bet they're expensive as fuck...
  • TFA isn't any more specific on what "specialized chargers and related devices" are, that would weigh the difference of 40 pounds. Were they hauling ABS's or car batteries around? I could fill a shopping bag with chargers and it still wouldn't weigh more than a few pounds.

  • 50 "lbs" is about 25kg. Quite why that should be considered such a problem, I don't know.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      How many stones is that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's just for the devices. Add in the weight of their body armor, their weapon(s) and the rest of their gear and you see why it's a big deal.

  • by tp1024 ( 2409684 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @09:53PM (#37114560)
    Guys, you're missing the point.

    The weight savings result from doing away with a mess of redundant equipment/chargers etc. that were designed by moronic, egoistic engineers whose idea of standardization is that they are happy to follow any standard, so long as it's theirs.

    They were instead replaced by one small and much more lightweight unit that weighs 9lbs instead of 50lbs and is still able to plug into all their gadgets and charge their batteries. (Maybe one day we can do that with laptops and cellphones too ...) This unit can accept power from a lot of different kinds of sources (conventional grid AC, but also DC etc.), they plan to also distribute a set solar cells and buffer batteries, that can (naturally) also plug into this unit - but will almost double the weight of the equipment to about 17lbs. (Still a lot less than 50 lbs, but the usual caveats of solar power apply, so they are quite likely to end up using other sources a lot as well.)
  • I've got a great idea for saving money and lives.


  • This terrible loss of life could have been prevented...if only the sun had come out soon.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein