Company Offers Micro-Grid/Solar Solution for Military

By Eric Beidel
A New Jersey company that installs solar panels on existing utility poles has begun making a hard pitch to the military.

Petra Solar Inc. recently received a $200 million contract that calls for the installation of 200,000 of the company’s SunWave units throughout New Jersey. The pole-mounted panels, which are equipped with smart-grid communication devices, could easily be translated for use on military bases, said Johan Enslin, the company’s chief technology officer.

“The cost of [foreign oil], especially to the military and forward operating bases, even local bases, is really very high,” he said. The loss is not just measured in dollars, he added, as truck drivers sustain casualties transporting fuel through Afghanistan to the front lines.

Enslin described the system as a “smart energy module installed on a photovoltaic panel” that performs the DC-to-AC power conversion directly on the panel itself. One of the devices can be installed in 20 minutes by a single lineman in a bucket truck, he said.

The deployment of the SunWave technology on existing utility poles in New Jersey will produce 40 megawatts of power across the state, Enslin said. So far, about half of the systems have been installed.

The product may be more useful on U.S.-based military installations than in the most forward operating environments though. A Marine Corps unit took pole-mounted solar panels to Afghanistan as part of an experiment but found little use for them in theater, said Capt. Brandon Newell, who works out of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office.

Topics: Energy, Alternative Energy

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