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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is developing technologies designed to capture solar power in space, directly by an orbiting satellite, and beaming that captured power back to Earth. One of those technologies is the Photovoltaic RF Antenna Module (PRAM) satellite launched in May 2020 aboard the U.S. Air Force’s experimental orbital aircraft, the X-37B. Power beaming uses different light frequencies to wirelessly transmit power to a receiver. NRL previously tested a land-based system using an infrared laser whose 400 watts of direct current was wirelessly captured by photovoltaic cells tuned to the laser’s wavelengths over a distance of 325 meters. The collected satellite data will be also be compared to existing data from the land-based experiment. (more…)
CleanTechnica has posted an interesting article detailing five key reasons why U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan appreciate and use solar power technology. The top-line reasons identified are:
1. Solar Power Saves Money
2. Solar Power Saves Planes and Trucks
3. Solar Power Saves Wear and Tear
4. Solar Power is Just Plain Better
5. Solar Power Builds Strong Communities
We would add “solar power saves lives” to that list, given the human cost of protecting fuel convoys in theater. As Department of Defense officials revealed after a review in 2011, “over 3,000 American soldiers or contractors were killed in fuel supply convoys between 2003 and 2007 in Iraq and Afghanistan.” This issue will be explored further in a forthcoming documentary “the Burden,” produced by Truman National Security fellow Roger Sorkin. However, the author does allude to this problem under reason #2:
By cutting down on fuel deliveries, the hybrid solar units free up aircraft and trucks for other missions. According to Kidd, the project has resulted in the equivalent of pulling 185 trucks out of fuel convoys.
In turn, that reduces the risk for Soldiers assigned to secure air drops and fuel convoys.
UPDATE: a colleague of ours adds another good reason why U.S. Special Forces appreciate solar power: It’s quiet, and has much less of a thermal signature, which is important to low profile operations.