Monday, August 26, 2013

We Needed it but Didn't Have it. Now it's 2013: Is Better Field Generation for DOD Here Yet?

Since this blog's inception, we've been calling for accelerating the work to improve the efficiency of field generators.  In the context of rising assaults (and many successful attacks) on fuel convoys in Afghanistan, here's a DEB post from 2009, referencing a similarly aligned point of view at NDIA, pleading for speed.

Now Federal News Radio covers a recent announcement that the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is getting closer to fielding a practical 10 kilowatt fuel cell generator.  Cumbersomely designated: "Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell Tactical Electrical Power Unit" the benefits jump right out are you:

  • Require approximately half the fuel to generate the same output
  • Much quieter
  • Smaller - easier to transport

Drawbacks in include a longer start-up time, and almost certainly until production ramps up, higher acquisition costs.

But for sure, using the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF) metric will show these units are massively more cost effective over the full lifecycle.  And they'll save lives by requiring fewer and/or smaller convoys and by being harder to detect.

Unfortunately, despite the optimism from ONR, sounds to me like deployment may still be years off. I wonder if they can be better marketed to the private sector, hungry for better disaster preparedness and resiliency solutions in the wake of hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and others.  That kind of market demand would could be a real expediter.  ... and perhaps a different name :)

Here's the full article.

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