By Glory Boschert, Warrior Transition BattalionMarch 5, 2009
FORT CARSON, Colo. - One of the wounded warriors in Fort Carson's Warrior Transition Battalion drafted an alternate energy proposal using wave oscillation along the nation's 95,000 miles of shoreline while recovering from his injuries.
The proposal by 1st Lt. Benjamin DuPrAfA was reviewed by Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera and the mayor presented to Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin during their presidential campaign visit to Colorado Springs Sept. 6. DuPrAfA said that while he didn't have any direct feedback, the idea was mentioned in the presidential debates.
"It was good to hear it," he said. "The present situation in this country is we have to get off oil-based products and get off coal." He said his idea is one way to use the vast coastline of the U.S., which has largely been ignored.
DuPrAfA received his Bachelor of Science degree in nuclear engineering from the U.S. Military Academy in 2005. This program was first offered to his graduating class. It focuses on power generation and distribution, general engineering, medical imaging and treatment, the effects on the human body and weapon designs and threats.
While at the academy, he was assigned cadet leadership training in Vicenza, Italy. He was attached to a military police unit and on weekends he traveled to southern France, Germany and much of Italy. There he saw how Europeans held a much different perspective of power distribution.
DuPrAfA observed how the Italians used their coastline by using wave-break pontoons to absorb wave energy and generate power while still protecting their harbors. In the North Sea, which he reports as some of the roughest water in the world, he said that smaller European countries are banding together and forming organizations that power their countries with both wind and tidal current power.
This is much like the turbine projects that are now being researched at the Air Force Academy.
DuPrAfA says that he has thought much about simple ways to harness power. His ideas for wave oscillation came to him while he was scuba diving. It was then that he thought of the massive amount of energy produced by the pulsing of the waves. He says that at a depth of seven-15 feet or so, the surge always rolls in and out at a relatively constant rate, regardless of surface conditions, cloud cover or other conditions.
DuPrAfA's basic idea is to harness that power, mechanically forming energy flow just as the waving kelp beds. He proposed that a simple mechanical system would not require much maintenance, threaten fish, or obstruct the surface sea lanes, and would be modular and basically unnoticed.
He believed this could be started in the U.S. for a relatively small amount of money and could be quickly expanded, based on outputs to the scale of our entire coastline, which has otherwise been ignored. He said that one commercial enterprise is currently under way in Peru.
Another idea he has for generating power involves using a rugged translucent material that could go over photo-voltaic solar panels.
This would require systematically replacing roads with solar panels that could essentially be driven on. DuPrAfA also theorizes that roughly 50 percent of the sun's energy makes it to the surface of the earth. He proposes that solar panels be placed outside of the atmosphere and then shoot the energy through the atmosphere via microwave. He admits that this idea was postulated a while ago - in the 1960s or even before - but now the technology is available to do this.
DuPrAfA deployed to Ar Ramadi, Iraq, from October 2006-December 2007 with Company D, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, now the 1st Bn., 12th Inf. Reg., 4th BCT, 4th ID.
He transitioned to civilian life Jan. 6, after being promoted to captain.
DuPrAfA is currently seeking employment with the Federal Highway Administration as an engineer.
Although it would not be using his ideas in alternative energy, he hopes to get a job in California, which has a large coastline and is a state that could use alternative energy sources. He believes he could make a difference, either partnering with an energy producer or starting a business of his own.