Alternative Energy no image

Published on November 16th, 2009 | by Tina Casey

9

U.S. Army’s New Research Center Puts Fossil Fuels on Notice

The U.S. Army's new GSPEL laboratory complex in Warren, Michigan will push the market for more sustainable vehicle technologies.

[social_buttons]

If we need just one more reason to be convinced that the era of fossil fuels is quickly winding down, 30,000 square feet of evidence is going up right now in the suburban Detroit town of Warren, Michigan. That’s where the U.S. Army is building its new Ground System Power and Energy Laboratory (GSPEL), and it’s no accident that the site is deep in the heart of the U.S. auto industry.

The high tech GSPEL complex features eight separate laboratories, all dedicated to the development of more sustainable military vehicles and related systems: increasing energy efficiency, using more renewable resources, focusing on ready access to energy and power, and reducing environmental impacts. It’s all part of the military’s overall drive to shed fossil fuels—both foreign domestic—and focus on energy security for the 21st century.

Energy Security = More Green Jobs

To put things in perspective, the M1 Abrams tank gets just over 0.5 miles per gallon, and tanks are just one element in the U.S. Army’s half-million strong fleet of vehicles, making it the owner of the single largest fleet in the world.

The Army is well aware of its potential for pulling the entire civilian market into a more sustainable future in which oil and other fossil fuels follow national defense goals rather than leading them. To that end, GSPEL will focus on partnering with industry and academic researchers to ensure a more rapid transfer of sustainable technologies to the commercial market, starting with a new advanced vehicle battery that can be sourced in the U.S. The focus on domestic sourcing derives from national security goals, but It’s also a green economy twofer in which the new jobs created at GSPEL will be leveraged to create even more green jobs in domestic industries. Go, Army!

GSPEL as a Green Laboratory

One key piece of equipment for GSPEL is the highest power-level power processing unit in the U.S., called AV-800. Supplied by AeroVironment, the grid-connected unit is used to test new technologies but instead of releasing spent energy it is capable of returning more than 90% of the energy back to the grid. Its near-megawatt scale is needed for next-generation fleet testing on hybrid-electric vehicles, both manned and unmanned, as well as grid-connected batteries, fuel cell systems, and other stationary devices.

Army, Meet Al Gore

Like former vice president Al Gore, our U.S. Army labored on sustainability issues for many years without anyone in the civilian world paying much attention, until recently that is. GSPEL is part of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive, Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), which actually has its roots in World War II. Advanced batteries, hybrid electric powertrains, fuel cells, and lightweight materials have been some of the areas of focus.

In a recent Army press release, TARDEC Director Dr. Grace M. Bochenek explains that the center’s integrated system-of-systems and lifecycle approaches to research and development will translate into GSPEL programs that focus on new fuels and lubricants, alternative energy sources, and energy storage among others (system-of-systems means pooling resources to increase functionality and performance). As Dr. Bochenek rather Gore-ishly expresses it, the Army has to “think about our power and energy needs in a holisitc manner because it’s the only way to derive the most value.”

Image: U.S. Army (Sgt. Paula Taylor) on wikimediacommons.org.


Tags: , , , , ,


About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Mark Bachelder

    Of course, “sustainable military” has similar oxymoronic whiff as “military intelligence”.

    I’m thrilled that the military is jumping at least one (oil) industry ship with this move. Truly petroleum is a sunset industry. And if we can retire the petroleum industry, just imagine how much of the military we can retire!

  • Mark Bachelder

    Of course, “sustainable military” has similar oxymoronic whiff as “military intelligence”.

    I’m thrilled that the military is jumping at least one (oil) industry ship with this move. Truly petroleum is a sunset industry. And if we can retire the petroleum industry, just imagine how much of the military we can retire!

  • sheckyvegas

    This is an excellent step in the right direction. Most technological advances have come through the military or NASA (men-in-black conspiracies not withstanding) so the faster the military complex weens itself off fossil fuels, the quicker that type of technology will be released to the public on a much larger scale. Just think microwave ovens and velcro shoes!

  • sheckyvegas

    This is an excellent step in the right direction. Most technological advances have come through the military or NASA (men-in-black conspiracies not withstanding) so the faster the military complex weens itself off fossil fuels, the quicker that type of technology will be released to the public on a much larger scale. Just think microwave ovens and velcro shoes!

  • http://gas2.0 william mcgowan

    i find it very cool that or

    not cool that it comes to this for those we vote into office say . i,ve got an idea. have you thought of going green. i bet we can make it work and get votes too. what do you think guys?

    just an out of the box thought. thanks for your ear.

    william.

  • http://greenoptions.com/author/susan Susan Kraemer

    Gotta love our army – they know the real cost in blood of oil dependence.

  • http://greenoptions.com/author/susan Susan Kraemer

    Gotta love our army – they know the real cost in blood of oil dependence.

  • Miles Disney

    Well this is undoubtedly a good development! Now if we can just find a country which has billions of gallons of waste vegetable oil in reserves. Watch out McDonalandia!

  • Miles Disney

    Well this is undoubtedly a good development! Now if we can just find a country which has billions of gallons of waste vegetable oil in reserves. Watch out McDonalandia!

Back to Top ↑