Ladakhi engineer, educator and innovator, Sonam Wangchuk has developed the prototype of a unique solar-heated tent for Indian Army soldiers stationed in the cold and high-altitude climes of Ladakh.
Besides offering more space than the container cabins the Indian Army uses for its soldiers, this structure requires no kerosene for heating and thus emits zero pollution into the environment.
“This is the second prototype of a solar-heated tent I have made. The first one was made about a decade ago for nomads living in the Changthang region. These nomads live in smoky old tents with a big gaping hole at the top for the smoke to go out. This leaves them in the cold and in bad health. Unfortunately, the government did not pick up on this innovation and instead continued distributing cotton tents for them.” Sonam says.
Things dramatically changed in the past winter when the Indian Army sent its troops to locations like the Galwan Valley following the recent standoff with the People’s Liberation Army of China. “Suddenly, the Army had to station a large number of soldiers in places where suitable accommodation was barely present through the winter, which meant they brought with them things unsuitable for the local environment,” he says.
This tent is a passive solar structure that is portable, prefabricated and can be assembled on the spot. “The tent is very insulated from its surroundings with high degrees of solar intake and offers all the space for absorbing the sun. The design is very simple. We use the sun to collect the heat, water to store it and the tent’s insulation properties help retain it in the tent. The tent offers solar intake through the part facing southwards. Insulation comes from all the other sides of the tent,” he says.
One can dismantle the tent and set it up again anywhere. Each of the dismantled pieces weighs under 30 kgs, which can be carried by local porters and assembled easily. “The number of pieces needed to build this tent depends on the size. You can make it for 10 soldiers, five soldiers or an officer. To build a tent for 10 soldiers, it would require 40 such pieces,” notes Sonam.
“What’s important to note is that the container cabins they are using, which offer smaller spaces than our prototype, costs more. Our tent will be made at half the cost, offer double the space and deliver the ultimate levels of portability that their current cabins don’t have,” he adds. He notes that these tents can work for anyone who needs ‘quick accommodation’ that is warm.
“We will test this tent at Chang-La pass—which is at about 17,600 feet above sea level and on the way to Pangong Lake—for extreme weather and wind conditions. This is as tough as a location can be for testing purposes,” concludes Sonam.
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