Marines Embrace Solar In Afghanistan

It’s all about the mission. That’s been the overriding message from the various branches of the U.S. military as they pursue renewable-energy solutions – and Marines in Afghanistan are providing real-world evidence to back that up.

Members of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment – aka, Dark Horse 3/5 – are using flexible solar panels they can carry to power radios. They’re using solar tarps to power tents at night. And they’ve got a solar panel array that can power more than 20 lighting systems and 15 computers at one time at Patrol Base Sparks, an outpost of Forward Operating Base Jackson in Afghanistan.

solar power, Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps

image via U.S. Marine Corps/Gunnery Sgt. William Price

“Our generators typically use more than 20 gallons of fuel a day. We are down to 2.5 gallons a day,” Staff Sgt. David Doty said in a Marine Corps story that was picked up by CNET. “The system works amazing. By saving fuel for generators, it has cut back on the number of convoys, meaning less opportunity for one of our vehicles to hit an IED.”

The solar gear – ExFOB in military parlance, for “Experimental Forward Operating Base” – wasn’t just dumped on the Marines in Afghanistan; they trained with it at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., last July. There, they were able to save up to eight gallons of fuel per generator. Still, not everyone was convinced of its worth – until they started generating solar power in Afghanistan.

“When we first got the gear, I was a skeptic. As Marines, we do not always like change. I expected ExFOB to be a burden,”  Gunnery Sgt. Willy Carrion said. “Now that we are in theater, and we have so many (patrol bases) set up, we all see the how crucial and important renewable energy is. Every infantry battalion should have the ExFOB; it has proven to be an extremely valuable asset!”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply January 28, 2011

    Jenny French

    We hope you will also consider the SUNRNR, another configuration for portable solar power.

  • Reply March 24, 2012

    Timothy Johnston

    ExFOB, great example of implementation proving success in real time. 12.5% saving great return, low maintenance, linear cost, can only go down not up with fossil fuel. Oh and clean and silent!!

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