To increase the daily productivity of missions in remote locations and decrease the warfighters dependence on traditional energy sources, the Corps has developed the first generation of Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy Network Systems (GREENS).
This solar-powered energy distribution system is being tested near Marine Corps Air Station Yuma on the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., by Marines of Bravo Battery 1-10, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 1 as a part of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course. Instead of using a fuel-powered generator or motor, these Marines are setting up photo-voltaic solar panels to provide the sustained energy needed to fire artillery down range.
The GREENS components, working in conjunction with one another, deliver a continuous and reliable power source to Marines in the field.
The concept of this particular renewable technology dates as far back as 2006, but didn’t get a jump start until 2009.
“2009 was when the expeditionary energy and strategic implementation plan was first conceived and developed. 2010 was when the expeditionary energy office stood up under the direct guidance of the commandant. We’ve been doing expeditionary energy and evaluation ever since,” said Maj. Anthony McNair, requirements and technologies team member for the USMC Expeditionary Energy Office Headquarters, based out of the Pentagon, and a native of Saginaw, Mich.
The controller component of the GREENS is considered the brains of the operation. It regulates, stores and distributes power from various external sources. Vents were also integrated to keep the electronic components from overheating.
Four high-energy, rechargeable lithium battery packs are included with each system, as well as anywhere between two-to-four solar panels, depending on the configuration for specific mission requirements.
“Each of those little squares are called cells,” said McNair. “Multiple cells make up a solar panel and multiple solar panels make up a solar array.”
Two solar panels are contained in each of the four Integrated Solar Panel Case Assemblies. They’re no different than any other photovoltaic solar technology. Meaning, it takes photons from the sun and turns it into a useable source of energy; the same type of technology used by popular solar powered phone chargers.
The power amassed by one GREENS system is able to produce enough energy to operate a M777 Howitzer by the Bravo Battery Marines.
“We’re trying to find out its capabilities,” said Staff Sgt. William Rauschelbach, platoon sergeant for Bravo Battery and a native of Rogersville, Mo. “So far, it’s working out alright.”
Normally, the massive Howitzer would require power coming from the fuel of a 7-ton truck. With the GREENS system hooked up, it is still able to operate at full capacity, without the sound of a 7-ton engine running.
“It’s already gone through extended user evaluation in Afghanistan, and before that we had it in Twentynine Palms. We did several tests with it here, in-country. It’s not a prototype anymore,” said McNair. “But we continue to look at ways to make it more efficient.”
Members of the USMC Expeditionary Energy Office are also working with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One to test the GREENS system’s usefulness when employed by aviation support units. During their visit, they are scheduled to research the amount of fuel and batteries needed to run Forward Arming and Refueling Points in order to determine if GREENS could provide a more efficient and sustainable energy alternative.
The second generation of GREENS is being developed and hopes to be a lighter and more productive version of the one available now. All in an effort to streamline the world’s finest expeditionary force into a faster and more efficient Marine Corps.
“It’s like a cascading effect. The fewer fossil-fuel energy requirements, the fewer convoys, the fewer Marines we put in harm’s way,” said McNair.
Rising, meeting and conquering the realities of a combat environment is always a work in progress on an ever-evolving battleground. Innovation is a concept Marines have never shied away from. When it comes to improving the ways in which Marines go about operating in austere environments, the Marine Corps will always pride itself on being at the forefront of new generational technology.