At the Forefront of Technology and Environmental Sustainability

At the Forefront of Technology and Environmental Sustainability

By Dialogo
October 01, 2010

The Science and Technology Program of U.S. Southern Command, or USSOUTHCOM,
is a think tank for innovation developed from in-theater experiences, such as
combating the longterm, nonconventional threat of narcoterrorism and supporting
disaster-response operations. The program supports advanced technology research that
enhances joint technological capabilities among nations in Latin America and the
To foster this collaboration, the Western Hemisphere Information Exchange
Program, or WHIX, was developed to enhance security cooperation that addresses
critical energy and natural resources issues linked to national and international
security interests. WHIX focuses on expanding the use of clean energy and
environmental technologies and practices to strengthen economic performance, enhance
energy security, improve quality of life and advance resource
With the support of Florida International University in Miami, WHIX actively
promotes environmental sustainability using renewable energy sources such as
biofuels, and develops eco-friendly systems for waste management and water
purification. These new technological advances are later used by the U.S. Department
of Defense and other militaries in the region through various means, such as the use
of biofuels to power military vehicles.

The following successful projects have been developed by WHIX and are being
used as models throughout Latin America:

2004: Two mobile 50-kilowatt biomass gasifier systems were set up in El
Salvador, generating 100 kilowatts of electrical power and thermal energy for the
military by burning agricultural biomass waste, such as coconut shells. The heat
source provides hot water for cooking and laundry services during field operations
in remote areas. The system’s performance is a viable alternative to power remote or
isolated military units at comparable costs to commercially generated electrical
The use of this technology in El Salvador led to increased interest from
other militaries. The Chilean Air Force and scientific community are considering the
potential use of this system to power research stations in Antarctica, thereby
reducing the need for logistical investments and decreasing the environmental
pollution produced by fossil fuels.
Another project developed in El Salvador is a wastewater treatment plant that
processes 166.56 cubic meters of sewage per day by using native plants to remove
contaminants. Results from this unique project can be adapted for environmental
treatment of military installation sewage without the use of chemicals. This
technique ensures a safe habitat for wildlife, especially in remote, environmentally
sensitive areas. The system eliminates logistics in support of sewage treatment and
reduces the storage and costs of potentially dangerous chlorine chemicals. It also
provides clean water for irrigation and plants for commercial purposes such as
animal feed, or biomass gasification.

2005: Four projects were started in 2005, including the development of
an energy-efficient system that used excess solar power for satellite communications
as part of disaster responses in Argentina and El Salvador. This project later had
large-scale applicability in Iraq by reducing the size of convoys carrying water and
diesel fuel for generators at remote operating bases. A solar-powered water
purification system using reverse osmosis was created in Honduras, and the “Solar
Cube,” a containerized solar and wind powered water purification system, was
developed in Chile. Finally, the “H2Go” system was designed by Florida International
University in Miami to provide a mobile, tactical water source for small teams and
first responder operations. The system can be transported in a Hummer, with solar,
thin film, photo-voltaic cells incorporated into the vehicle’s roof.

2006: WHIX developed a program to integrate micro hydro turbines to
generate electricity in a remote military installation in Peru, under a variety of
water flow conditions. As a result of this project and with the support of the
Peruvian National Hydraulic Lab and the National Engineering University, the
Peruvian military established a permanent collaboration for training military
engineers in renewable energy technologies, specifically micro hydro turbine
systems. The Peruvian military has used this technology to power remote military
outposts throughout the Amazon region in support of drug interdiction

2007: WHIX partnered with Panama’s Ministry of Justice and Public
Safety and the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá to demonstrate the feasibility of
converting military land, air and sea vehicles to run on biofuel derived from
alternative native nonfood fuel sources, such as African Palm and sunflowers. The
research produced from the tests demonstrated the viability of adapting locally
produced biofuel for military use, in addition to evaluating emissions and engine
performance parameters.
The USSOUTHCOM-sponsored WHIX program has demonstrated that renewable energy
technologies are viable within the hemisphere. These technological innovations
assist defense leaders in tackling their most pressing energy, water and
environmental issues.