The energy-hungry U.S. military plans to help develop advanced power storage devices with the help of a branch of the Energy Department that fosters innovation in high-risk, but high-potential, technologies.
The Department of Defense, the single largest user of energy in the world, will work with the Energy Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, known as Arpa-E, to develop technologies that could also have civilian applications, officials said on Wednesday.
The steady march of technology has created a voracious appetite for energy, in the military, said U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a release.
He said a Marine platoon during the Vietnam war took two or three radios on patrol, but now squads in Afghanistan take more than 10.
Even if the military generates electricity with solar panels, or other renewable technologies, a lack of good ways to store that power can hamper reliability of critical equipment.
We need the ability to effectively store the energy we create - to be able to use it when it's needed, and to use it where it's needed, said Mabus.
Arpa-e, which fosters development of technologies that private companies consider too risky, was created in 2007. It was wholly funded by the government's 2009 stimulus package.
President Barack Obama wants $550 million in funding for Arpa-e in fiscal 2012, but faces an uphill battle in a Congress that is looking to cut costs.
Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said this week that Obama may not get the entire $550 million.
Every program must live within its means, she said at an Arpa-e summit outside Washington. She said she believed Congress would continue to fund the program, but said at what level Congress will support funding for ARPA-E remains uncertain.
A DOD research and engineering office plans to work with Arpa-E to develop an energy storage device that will provide future defense systems with long duration storage suitable for a variety of applications, including military bases and vehicles and eventually commercial grids, the DOE said.
The DOD's installations and environment office will also work with Arpa-e to assess the technology requirements for energy storage across military installations.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Marguerita Choy)