Minnesota-made generators could save military lives

Sen. Franken announced that the military will now use generators made in Fridley, Minn.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken describes how new generators designed by Minnesota manufacturer Cummins Power Generation could cut energy use in Afghanistan and other places overseas at a press conference on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at TCF Stadium.

Jaak Jensen

Minnesota Senator Al Franken describes how new generators designed by Minnesota manufacturer Cummins Power Generation could cut energy use in Afghanistan and other places overseas at a press conference on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at TCF Stadium.

Branden Largent

Military overseas will now use Minnesota-built generators, U.S. Sen. Al Franken and a Department of Defense official announced at TCF Bank Stadium on Wednesday.

The new generators, built by Cummins Power Generation Inc. in  Fridley, Minn., are lighter and 21 percent more energy-efficient than current generators. They will be used in Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula, Franken said.

Many soldiers are killed or injured in convoys delivering fuel, so using the more fuel-efficient Advanced Medium Mobile Power Sources will put fewer troops in harm’s way, Franken said.

Department of Defense Assistant Secretary Sharon Burke, the department’s top energy official, said President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget will include more than $112 million for the AMMPS generators, which will be immediately deployed in Afghanistan.

“Our supply lies completely on the field of battle. They are targets, and we’ve paid a high price for that,” Burke said. “If we can get our forces to get their jobs done with lower risk, we really need to do that.”

About 400 AMMPS generators are already on the ground in Afghanistan, and the military might add about 150 more, depending on operational needs, Lt. Col. Michael Foster said.

Foster said generators provide energy for communications, fuel and basic necessities for troops.

About 400 of the generators will also be sent to South Korea combat outposts and contingency bases, Burke said.

“I know this will be an important benefit for our troops there,” she said.

The DOD is the nation’s largest consumer of energy, Franken said.

Franken and Burke toured the Fridley Cummins plant to see where the generators are being produced and met privately with the company’s leaders after the press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Indiana-based Cummins employs almost 2,000 people in Minnesota, said the company’s president Tony Satterthwaite.

Producing the generators has added more than 120 jobs in the state and has saved between 100 and 150 additional jobs for Minnesota engineers during the economic downturn that started in 2008, Satterthwaite said.

Cummins has worked with the U.S. military since World War II and provided generators during the Vietnam War as well, Sattherwaite said.

“We have a long history of working with the military, and we’re very pleased to be continuing that,” he said, adding that his company has a different contract with the U.S. Air Force that will also begin production soon.

“We see this as a very exciting and interesting segment for the future,” he said. “It’s not so much about fighting wars; it’s about saving money, saving fuel and saving lives.”