Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told an audience of federal managers Wednesday that the Navy would achieve President Barack Obama’s goal of producing 1 gigawatt of renewable energy by year’s end. That’s five years ahead of schedule.
“We’re going to be at the gigawatt,” Mabus said. “I’m not satisfied stopping there. We can do better than that over the next five years.”
Maybus was the keynote speaker at the 2015 GreenGov Symposium, which took place at The George Washington University in Washington. Organizers estimated that two-thirds of those attendance were federal leaders and members of the Senior Executive Service from 50 different agencies.
Among those managers were agency chief sustainability officers — a position established in March, when President Obama issued his executive order laying out a 10-year plan for sustainability in the federal government.
Although the Navy is a seafaring service, it owns 3.5 million acres of land and 117,000 buildings. It’s at those land-based facilities where the service is finding most of its renewable energy solutions.
“We’re doing it almost exclusively through public-private partnerships, working with utilities, working with companies, giving them the land on bases to do things,” Mabus said. “Or, doing off-take contracts, so that the financing works for them outside our bases.”
Mabus also announced that by the end of June, the Navy would be publishing a request for proposal for Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, as part of the target=”_blank”>Capitol Solar Challenge. This initiative directs federal agencies and military installations in the Washington-area to deploy solar renewable energy solutions.
“We’re entering an RFP for rooftop solar panels for parking lots and for ground based, open parking lots where you can put solar panels above cars,” Mabus said. “It’s going to be 6-8 megawatts. It will generate about 10 percent of the power that Anacostia-Bolling will need.”
The Navy will use the Anacostia-Bolling solar project as a pilot program, especially for use in urban locales with less available open space to install photovoltaic arrays.
Navy undergoes culture change related to energy sustainability
Mabus spoke about a culture change happening across the entire Navy when it comes to sustainability.
“We’re going to deploy the Great Green Fleet,” he said. “Carriers-strikers, carriers-nuclear, everybody else is going to be sailing on a blend of marine diesel and some sort of biofuels. All of the aircraft will be flying on a blend of aviation gasoline and some sort of biofuels.”
The Navy is also exploring alternative fuel sources, such as wind, geothermal, hydrothermal and wave, to power its ships.
“All that helps us if something happens to the grid, we can pull ourselves off and still get essential military jobs done,” Mabus said. “So the next step is microgrids, setting up a way to store energy on a base or in a cluster of bases and keep going, even if something happens to the larger civilian grid that we can still operate.”
Two examples of the Navy’s new approach to energy are the America and the Makin Island, two new, big-deck amphibious ships with hybrid drives. The ships use an electric drive for speeds under 12 knots and a regular gas-turbine drive for faster speeds.
“The first time Makin Island deployed for an eight to nine-month deployment, it came back with almost half their fuel budget unspent,” Mabus said. “And so, we’re beginning to retrofit some of our destroyers. We’re building an all-electric ship, the Zumwalt-class DDG-1000 destroyer. All of our ships are becoming more energy dependent, energy needy, and so we’ve got to pay a lot of attention to this.”
Being forward-thinking about energy is not something new for the Navy.
“We’ve always led in terms of energy change, sail to coal, coal to oil, pioneering the use of nuclear,” Mabus said. “Every time single time we’ve done it, there have been these naysayers. ‘You’re trading something that’s free — the air — for something that costs money, coal?’ Or, ‘We’ve got all these coaling stations set up around the world. You’re changing that? You’re just going to walk from that infrastructure?’ Or, ‘There is no way you can get a nuclear reactor small enough and safe enough to fit inside a submarine.’ But every single time, they’ve been wrong.”