Air Force Calls for Integrated Solar PV Shelters

The lightweight, flexible nature of thin film solar photovoltaics (PV) coupled with solar energy’s inherent off-grid energy advantages are being increasingly explored by the U.S. military as an additional means to provide extra power to their remote installations. In one recent example, Solar Integrated Technologies (SIT), a manufacturer and integrator of photovoltaic (PV) systems, secured a contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida to develop and install a PV power generating system onto a Small Shelter System (SSS).

Los Angeles, California – August 6, 2004 [] The contract is part of AFRL’s Solar Energy Program at Tyndall AFB, FL that involves development of new shelter power generation systems using photovoltaic (PV) cells. “SIT’s integration of thin film solar cell panels with the SSS is a part of our energy dynamics study to address performance issues of solar energy under various daylight conditions and weather variables, AFRL engineers said. According to the AFRL engineers, SIT was particularly chosen because of their proprietary production capability to integrate photovoltaic cells to flexible industrial fabrics. “This is our first opportunity to fully demonstrate to the Air Force the reliable year-round power generation of our unique technology,” said Edward Stevenson, Solar Integrated Technologies’ CEO. “Our technical team at SIT is extremely pleased that they will be working with AFRL to help fully demonstrate and document first-hand, the outstanding performance of the SIT solar electric system to their mobile shelter.” SIT believes the solar-enhanced SSS promises to be an innovation of wide scope for the future of PV powered mobile shelters for the armed forces. The project also coincides with SIT’s continued development and manufacturing of other similar portable PV shelters for commercial clients, humanitarian agencies, and developing sector countries in need of mobile, light weight solar electricity for a variety of useful applications. SIT isn’t the first company to make progress in this field either. In June of this year, Iowa Thin Film Technologies completed the development of integrated solar technology for three tent prototypes using the company’s PowerFilm flexible solar panels directly with the tent fabric. “Iowa Thin Film Technologies developed a new fabric integrated solar technology for field shelters that will advance the Army’s goal of reducing dependence on fuel-fired power generation and reducing logistics footprint,” said Jean Hampel, project engineer of the Fabric Structures Group in the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick Massachusetts. The project began with the Army’s growing demand for portable and remote power. Funding for the project came from the Small Business Innovation Research program. Hampel searched for commercially available solar technology that had high potential for developing tents with built-in solar power generation. Iowa Thin Film Technologies worked with the Soldier Center, and with Eureka, which is a division of Johnson Outdoors. FTL Design Engineering Studio, a tensile structure design and engineering firm, worked with the fabric of the tent prototypes. vv
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