In the summer of 2009, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division's reconnaissance company, Charlie Troop, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry, discovered 25 solar-powered water filtration machines locked up in an old hangar at Forward Operating Base Hammer, east of Baghdad.

The delivery date was from the prior year, with a thick coat of dust present as evidence of the time that had passed. Several civil affairs Soldiers had tried to revive the project over the course of the previous year, in an effort to get continuous water to the Iraqi population the Soldiers had been protecting.

Within a couple of weeks, the paratroopers had the machines up and running, a relationship established with one of the machine manufacturers in the U.S., and command support. Most importantly, they had high-level Iraqi government buy-in for a device that could provide 30,000 gallons of purified water per day-created by the power of the sun-without a single drop of gas or oil.

Within the first month of finding those machines, Charlie Troop, under the command of one of its executive officers, delivered the first machine into the outskirts of Sadr City, one of the most dangerous regions of Iraq. The village leader said, "Saddam couldn't get us water. Bin Laden couldn't get us water. Muqtada Al-Sadr couldn't get us water. Now, the American Soldiers have finally brought us water."

The replacement unit, the 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, picked up where Charlie Troop left off. The machines are still in operation, and the villages are maintaining them on their own with minimal U.S. support, more than one year after the first delivery.

When someone asks whether the U.S. has been successful in Iraq, we can tell the story of solar-powered water filtration technology, and Soldiers working with the Iraqi people to help them survive on their own.

NOTE: The author, Maj. Jesse R. Stewart, was the commander of Charlie Troop. He is currently a fellow in Counter-Insurgency at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.


The Force Provider Team, part of the Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems office, has designed and developed a state-of-the-art Shower Water Reuse System.

The SWRS is a rapidly deployable, mobile, self-sustaining system, capable of recovering up to 9,000 gallons per day of shower wastewater. This capability increases the Army's ability to reduce the logistical and security burden of water delivery to forward operating bases and combat outposts.

Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems has delivered the first eight SWRS units for deployment to Afghanistan as part of an add-on capability to the Force Provider base camp modules. Force Provider modules, affectionately known as the Army's Home Away from Home, provide billeting; personal hygiene; laundry; morale, welfare and recreation; and a field feeding capability for 600 Soldiers. The Force Provider team works to continually improve the quality of life for Soldiers in the field.

Additionally, U.S. Forces Afghanistan had a need for standardized Army equipment that reduced the logistics footprint at their base camps, particularly since the troop surge, which had a multiplier effect on troop sustainment. As a result, the Army has allocated additional funding to support a request for 80 more SWRS systems that will be used throughout Afghanistan.

The 75 percent recovery rate of the SWRS will translate to a tremendous cost savings to the Army, considering some estimates put the cost of usable water at the tactical edge in Afghanistan at nearly $20 per gallon.

The SWRS uses self-cleaning filters and reverse osmosis technology, combined with an easy-to-use, touch-screen LCD user interface. The wastewater is first filtered through a 15 micron pre-filter and two 0.2 micron microfilters, followed by three 8-inch saltwater reverse osmosis elements. This water is then filtered further through two carbon filters, exposed to bacteria-killing UV light, and finally shocked with calcium hypochlorite to prevent coliform growth.

The SWRS is housed in an 8 by 8 by 6.5-feet triple container, or TRICON, and weighs less than 8,000 pounds. It is capable of unattended operation for up to three days, and water quality is continually monitored through conductivity sensors. The touch-screen display gives the user visibility of real-time flows and pressures, set-up and operating instructions, and troubleshooting procedures. The system is operational in temperatures from 120 degrees F down to -15 degrees F, with an add-on cold weather kit.

-PM Force Sustainment Systems, Project Management Force Projection, PEO Combat Support and Combat Service Support


The Army has implemented a broad range of projects to meet its goals for 7.5 percent substitution of renewable energy by 2013. The projects listed are examples of the Army's continuing effort to improve energy security.

The Army has three hydropower facilities and has implemented 28 solar projects in 16 states, Germany and Italy.

The Army National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt, N.J., constructed a photovoltaic solar electric power parking canopy system.

A Fort Bliss, Texas, solar energy project supplies electricity to an administration building, which allowed Fort Bliss to partially remove this building from the grid.

The Nevada Army National Guard is constructing solar shade structure arrays at Carson City and Las Vegas.

Fort Carson, Colo., constructed a solar array on 12 acres of a closed landfill-the Army's largest solar power site.

Fort Knox, Ky., harvests biogenic renewable methane gas from Devonian-shale.

Tooele Army Depot, Utah, installed solar walls on 14 buildings, and has the first wind turbine at an active Army installation. The Army has other wind turbine projects in seven states.

Fort Drum, N.Y., installed solar wall preheat panels, providing solar heated ventilation air.

Other solar wall and thermal projects were implemented in 11 states, Puerto Rico and Belgium. Projects included solar walls, day lighting, solar roof tiles and solar tubes for heating.

Fort Richardson, Alaska, developed a project creating energy production from a low maintenance used vegetable oil filtration and oil burning system.

Fort Bragg, N.C., chose to use a simple chilled water system at night, producing a surplus of cold water to provide additional cooling capacity.

The Army has more projects in the initial phases of planning. The number and size of the projects will expand as the Army works to triple its renewable energy production on installations, and works with private developers and partners to create more than 1,500 megawatts of renewable energy power by 2017.

NOTE: The author, Doug Waters is manager, Renewable Energy and Net-Zero Energy Installations Program, Facilities Policy Division, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management


Energy harvesting (also known as power harvesting or energy scavenging) is the process by which energy is derived from external sources (e.g., solar power, thermal energy, wind energy and kinetic energy), and captured and stored. The fuel for energy harvesting is naturally present and is therefore considered free.

A driving force behind the search for new energy harvesting devices is the desire to power sensor networks, unmanned vehicles and mobile devices, without batteries. These systems are often very small and require little power, but their applications are limited by their reliance on batteries. Scavenging energy from ambient vibrations, wind, heat or light could enable these devices to function indefinitely.

A prototype is in development at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., that replaces wired test instrumentation with a wireless, self-powered, self-organizing and self-healing network of sensor nodes, designed to be embedded and assembled into unmanned ground and aerial systems. Energy to power these sensor nodes is scavenged from ambient vibration and heat energy, converted into electrical energy, providing the energy to support critical test functions.

This system could be used to replace battery packs found on Soldiers' radios and would reduce the load they have to carry into combat. In addition, the scavenger nodes could be incorporated into tactical vehicles and systems, replacing cumbersome alternative power units and reducing the weight of the vehicle, which correlates to less consumption.

- F.A. Macias/Test Resource Management Center


The Army is using funding from the Energy Conservation Investment Program to conduct exploration for geothermal (high temperature hot water) resources at Hawthorne Army Depot, Nev.

The ECIP is normally used to fund energy conservation and renewable energy projects at Army installations. Through a cooperative agreement with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, ECIP funds are being used to accomplish geothermal test wells in order to determine the presence of a hot water resource suitable to operate a 30-megawatt power plant.

The ultimate goal is to use the exploration results and confirmed resource to attract a third-party developer to build and operate the proposed power plant.

Additionally, the plant would greatly lessen the carbon footprint of a similar fossil-fuel plant, and could provide electric power to support the mission in the event of grid failure. This green power supports Army renewable energy efforts to meet federal standards.

The plant planned at Hawthorne will be patterned after the Navy Geothermal Program Office operation at China Lake, Calif. That plant has operated for more than 20 years, and produces peak power of 250 megawatts. The power is sold to the local electric grid, which distributes it to users.

Exploration at Hawthorne is based on preliminary surface testing conducted by the GPO. Surface soils analysis, 3-D sound testing and flyover observations revealed characteristics that strongly suggested the presence of a subsurface geothermal resource. Development of the power plant is one of the secretary of the Army's energy initiatives.

- Geothermal Program Office

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16