CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- Over a nine month period, the U.S. Army Central Operational Energy Program tested the effectiveness and reliability of solar powered light systems as an alternative to gas-powered systems.

The last of 250 SPLS in the initial test run arrived, May 16. Their arrival marks the end of the test period led by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Weaver Prosper, the USARCENT operational energy program manager.

Prosper said the test period normally takes nine months to evaluate new systems, and credits the effective tracking methods of USARCENT Soldiers and the excellent functionality of the light systems as the reasons USARCENT authorized the purchase of more light systems.

"USARCENT noncommissioned officers collected data from the solar light systems and compared that data to the gas powered light systems," said Prosper. "Because of their efforts, we were able to get raw, real-time information from both types of light systems."

Prosper said now that the SPLS concept has been validated, USARCENT will replace all of the gas powered light systems currently on Camp Arifjan.

"We currently have 250 solar powered light systems here in Kuwait," said Prosper. "The way forward for us is to purchase approximately 1,000 more." According to Prosper, replacing the light systems is an easy way for USARCENT to reduce fuel consumption by 4 million gallons a year and saves USARCENT tens of millions of dollars.

"The operational energy program has four pillars to our approach: waste, water, energy and fuel," Prosper said. "Following a report about energy usage on Camp Arifjan, we noticed fuel was a low hanging fruit for us. Our initial analysis of the SPLS indicated that by replacing every diesel powered light system in USARCENT with one powered by renewable energy, we would save approximately $56-million a year."

The SPLS program is not the only USARCENT initiative that focuses on sustainability and good environmental practices. Staff Sgt. Adam Isdale, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the USARCENT forward engineers, said there are several ways that individual Soldiers help conserve energy and save the Army money every day.

"Being part of this program has definitely changed the way I look at operational energy," Isdale said. "Not everyone can develop a million dollar energy-saving project, but Soldiers can use the waste management program here to help save. By doing something simple, like recycling, it can save the Army money that it can put back in to other programs for Soldiers."

Like Isdale, Prosper finds energy conservation has become a lifestyle and he works to help every Soldier adopt an environmentally conscious state of mind. "Before I got involved in the operational energy program, I was the officer in charge of prime power," said Prosper. "My whole job was to generate the power, through diesel generators. The operational energy program has changed my life. I've installed solar panels on my home and my electric bill went from $237 a month to $47 a month. For me, operational energy has become a way of life."

In addition to replacing the gas powered light systems, USARCENT plans to add solar charging stations for electric vehicles and build a solar array as it brings more renewable power to its area of responsibility. "The whole intent of the operational energy program is a culture change," Prosper said. "It's simple things most of us can do every day. You don't have to install a million-dollar solar project to make a difference."