While electric cars are usually considered a bastion of leftie liberalism, a huge supporter of alternative energy sources has been the U.S. military. One benefit of technolgies like solar power and electric vehicles is their off-the-grid capability. The Fort Carson Army base in Colorado is undergoing an experimental “microgrid” that will use electric vehicle batteries to provide backup power in the event of a large scale power outage.
A microgrid is a small power-grid-within-a-grid, with the ability to operate independently. In combat, the military is increasingly deploying solar panels in an effort to reduce reliance on expensive-to-transport-and-protect petroleum fuels. But the microgrid effort has more domestic advantages as well, as Hurricane Sandy proved.
Many areas in New Jersey and New York were left without power for days, as the grid has to be brought back online in sections. This left millions of people cold and cut off from the world. At Fort Carson, a new $7 million microgrid project called SPIDERS (short for Smart Power Infrastructure Display for Energy Reliability and Security) is being introduced. Fort Carson is a natural choice, as it already has one of the Army’s largest solar arrays on base, providing more power than the base needs.
The idea is that if EVs were deployed en masse on Army bases, the base would still have limited access to an emergency power reserve stored in the batteries in vehicles like the Smith electric van.. Nissan is toying with the same idea of using an EV to power homes in the event of a natural disaster or outage. But the SPIDERS project goes a step further, sending excess power collected from solar arrays back into the grid during times of high demand.
The military sees our reliance on fossil fuels as cause for serious concern in the coming decades. From Chevy Volts and hybrid tanks to biofuel jets and solar arrays, the military is getting more involved in alt-fuels than almost any other entity. Could this project be another GPS, with the technology trickling down to the public one day? This writer certainly hopes; having locally-provided power generation is infinitely more beneficial than relying on a single power station and a woefully out-of-date power grid.