As we've seen over the past year, solar energy use worldwide continues to grow rapidly. While this is certainly a positive trend, we face a challenge in today's energy landscape. In some cases, geographic and economic situations make solar power installation extremely difficult. These situations demonstrate a great need for a new way of utilizing solar power.
Consider U.S. military combat zones. These military sites are some of the most remote, dangerous locations in the world, and their heavy dependence on diesel fuel makes conditions all the more perilous. In today’s combat zones, one soldier or civilian dies for every 24 fuel convoys, usually due to improvised explosive devices (IED). Energy use has grown exponentially on modern day military sites, especially in areas where military personnel are sustaining operations in areas far from major support bases. Road networks to remote sites are not well developed, and enemy insurgents can easily target convoys on predictable and constrained supply routes that are difficult or impossible to defend 24 hours a day.
A military site uses an average of seven gallons of fuel for every one gallon delivered. Fuel transport can also be extremely hazardous, requiring military personnel to protect it in transit, which results in casualties. There is clearly a need for alternative energy on these sites, but the logistics of going solar are more than complicated.
Solar power can also make a substantial difference in remote regions without steady access to electricity. In regions throughout the world, small towns and villages suffer from the effects of an unreliable power grid. This lack of power prevents progress and hinders their ability to live in a clean, safe environment. In fact, 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to power and nearly 1 billion others have limited, inconsistent access. Due to costs and accessibility, powering these regions with solar has been slow to start.
We already know that there is a great need throughout the world – whether for military purposes, poor grid access or humanitarian efforts – for more power. What many people don’t know, however, is that there is a simpler way to deliver solar: mobile solar power. Mobile solar power systems have multiple uses from military applications to rural electrification, humanitarian assistance and emergency disaster response applications.
Thanks to new, developing technology, mobile solar power is now a viable solution. SunDial, founded in 2009 by U.S. military veterans, has created a plug-and-play portable hybrid power system that utilizes ground-breaking technology to provide energy to remote regions of the world quickly and cost-effectively.
These mobile power systems were deployed to Afghanistan with Special Operations Forces in testing from 2010-2012 and proved incredibly successful. On U.S. military sites they have already helped reduce dependence on diesel generators and drastically reduced fuel costs, improving the safety conditions for U.S. military personnel.
While mobile solar power is starting to improve the way energy is used on military sites, it has also begun to change lives in developing nations around the world with inadequate access to power sources, such as Nigeria. Recently a mobile solar power system was installed 100 miles away from grids and roads in Nigeria, and it has given local residents access to clean water for the first time in their lives.
Mobile solar power could also be applied in nations such as India, whose unstable grid made headlines in early August. As solar PV systems begin to take shape in regions all over the world, especially remote ones, mobile solar power should be considered because of its easy installation and transport. While there can be substantial cost upfront, the costs of long term operation are minimal, requiring little to no fuel.
In addition to supplying power to remote regions, mobile solar power can be used in a variety of industries including mining, telecommunications, oil exploration and national government organizations (NGOs) that need power in remote areas.
Mobile solar power has the capacity to revolutionize the energy landscape worldwide. Its life-changing potential for those living or working off-grid will only continue to grow as the technology develops and the possibilities of solar power are realized.