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US Marines aim to cut electricity bill by 50%

War can be murder, sure, but that doesn’t mean that you should kill the environment and/or your bank balance while laying your enemies to waste. KitGuru gets all thrifty in the light of a new revelation from Lockheed Martin.

We’ve all been to outdoor concerts where the music etc is under-pinned by a constant thud-thud-thudding from a diesel powered generator somewhere near the main stage. The same goes for playgrounds and parks. Sure, as it arrives, all you can here is the ice cream vans music, but – once the van parks up to do business – the familiar thud-thud-thudding takes over.

Now increase the level of thudding by a massive number and times it by a huge one, and you’re getting close to the amount of electricity generation the US military needs when it is deployed in the field. They call it ‘tactical electrical generation’. And it costs a fortune.

If you go to www.COSTOFWAR.com, then you can check out running totalisers for both Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. The big number in the middle is over $1.3 trillion and rising. While everyone tends to focus on the cost of the bombs being dropped on the Iraqi/Afghani people, in reality the cost to maintain the army, overall, on foreign soil eats up the vast majority of the money.

While the human cost of killing people can't be measured, the deployment cost is easy

While it’s not easy to feed soldiers less etc, one area where efficiencies could play a big role is energy.

With that in mind, Lockheed Martin secured a contract with the Office of Naval Research for the design and development of solid oxide fuel cell generator sets as an alternative to traditional battlefield power generation equipment. Lockheed Martin’s fuel cell technology will be integrated with solar panels, providing the military with the power needed to perform missions while using dramatically less fuel.

At the end of the 32-month development program, Lockheed Martin will demonstrate and deliver a multi-kilowatt JP-8 compatible Fuel Cell Efficient Power Node for evaluation by the U.S. Marines. The goal of the approximately $3 million dollar contract is to reduce overall fuel usage required for tactical electrical generation by 50 percent or more.

When not generating electricity for Marines, this fuel cell bakes pizza while you play 'Pong' on the integrated screen. Probably.

More than 100,000 military generators are used worldwide to power services from lighting and air conditioning to computers, radios, and command and control systems. Solid oxide fuel cells convert fuel into electricity using a chemical reaction that is 30 to 50 percent more efficient than the combustion engines used in diesel generators, which are the largest consumers of fuel on the battlefield today.

“Lockheed Martin shares the U.S. Department of Defense’s top goals of increasing the safety of our troops and reducing operational costs,” said Dan Heller, vice president of new ventures for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors. “Alternative energy solutions, such as the fuel cell we are developing for the Office of Naval Research, can help mitigate these challenges, advancing the strength and flexibility of our military operating in some of the world’s toughest conditions”.

In 2011, Lockheed Martin became the first company to continuously operate a solid oxide fuel cell generator set for over one thousand hours on standard DoD-supplied JP-8, and remains the only company to do so to date – so they must be doing something right.

Transformers are used in electrical systems and give us a cheap excuse to use this shot of Megan Fox

KitGuru says: While all war is horrific, we have to applaud any effort to reduce spending in the military, because that means more money is left for vital ‘home’ services like education and healthcare.

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