Memo to Pentagon brass from the top United States commander in western Iraq: Renewable energy — solar and wind-power generators — urgently needed to help win the fight. Send soon.
Calling for more energy in the middle of oil-rich Iraq might sound odd to some. But not to Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, whose deputies on July 25 sent the Pentagon a "Priority 1" request for "a self-sustainable energy solution" including "solar panels and wind turbines."
The memo may be the first time a frontline commander has called for renewable-energy backup in battle. Indeed, it underscores the urgency: Without renewable power, U.S. forces "will remain unnecessarily exposed" and will "continue to accrue preventable ... serious and grave casualties," the memo says.
Apparently, the brass is heeding that call. The U.S. Army's Rapid Equipping Force (REF), which speeds frontline requests, is "expected soon" to begin welcoming proposals from companies to build and ship to Iraq 183 frontline renewable-energy power stations, an REF spokesman confirms. The stations would use a mix of solar and wind power to augment diesel generators at U.S. outposts, the spokesman says.
Despite desert temperatures, the hot "thermal signature" of a diesel generator can call enemy attention to U.S. outposts, experts say. With convoys still vulnerable to ambush, the fewer missions needed to resupply outposts with JP-8 fuel to run power generators — among the Army's biggest fuel guzzlers — the better, the memo says.
"By reducing the need for [petroleum] at our outlying bases, we can decrease the frequency of logistics convoys on the road, thereby reducing the danger to our marines, soldiers, and sailors," reads the unclassified memo posted on the website InsideDefense.com, a defense industry publication that first reported its existence last month.