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Stereotypes have coined the US military as an institution rooted in tradition and even “backwards thinking” at times. Most rational thinkers wouldn’t view the military in such stark contrast with modern society, but such sentiment exists nonetheless.
So it might come as a surprise that the US Navy recently updated their energy plan from its last overhaul in 1994 (www.navy.mil). Interestingly enough, this one is vastly different and is, arguably, the first acknowledgement from the government of the existence and foreseeable threat of global warming.
The Navy’s New Energy Plan Focus: Improving Energy Security
Specifically, the newly-implemented plan is focused on codifying an energy reduction strategy. By 2020, the Navy plans on reducing its energy consumption by 50%, with the creation and installation of offshore energy projects to facilitate energy needs to every Navy installation.
The basis behind the shift in design is to increase energy security. “Energy security is critical because warfighters need assured access to reliable supplies of energy to meet operational needs afloat or ashore,” said Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics, Vice Admiral Phil Cullom. Threats listed by the Navy include the vulnerability of relying on the electrical grid; specifically, outages from natural or man-made causes. It’s hard to believe that the threat created through the existence of nuclear energy is not on their mind as well.
“Energy security is critical because warfighters need assured access to reliable supplies of energy to meet operational needs afloat or ashore.”
-Vice Admiral Phil Cullom
This refreshing take on energy consumption is only the beginning of the Navy’s transformation. “We are committed to cost-effectively achieving our energy goals by pursuing energy efficiency, transforming our energy culture, and integrating renewable energy technologies, where viable”, said the Chief.
U.S. Navy Implements Offshore Energy Projects in Hawaii
The revised energy plan focuses on offsetting the Navy’s reduction in energy by implementing extensive offshore renewable-energy projects. As a sign of actual movement in this direction, the Navy recently began a new research project off the Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii to test developing ocean-wave power technologies. The current phase involves harnessing energy through buoys designed to trap energy from the motion of waves, and then converting it into a viable energy source.
These tests in Hawaii are connected to a grid system in the region which includes a solar power array located on the Navy base in Pearl Harbor, and a new hydrogen fuel cell demonstration fleet in partnership with General Motors (GM). Partnering with the Navy, GM launched a fleet of 16 vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Fuel-cell prototypes — an electric vehicle combined with an on-board generator – look like SUVs and can travel 200 miles before requiring a fresh charge. At a USDA press conference, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus stated that, for every dollar oil prices go up, the Navy loses $30 million (veteransunited.com). The emission-free vehicle’s only by-products are heat and water.
“The military is paving the way, demonstrating the practicality and applicability of this technology,” explained Charles Freese, GM’s Executive Director of global fuel-cell activities.
The Navy’s plan seems like a viable solution to increase security, reduce carbon emissions, and hopefully help reduce the negative effects created through the global warming phenomenon.
With its endeavor to blaze a new trail in their personal energy policies, the Navy sets a precedent for a clean energy market, not only for its immediate benefit, but also for future generations, and in the private sector across the entire country as well in the military.
Short video: A theoretical application of shoreline technology that could be put to use by the US Navy.