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Clean Power US Navy takes a shot at sustainable technology with grants for nine new research projects

Published on June 7th, 2010 | by Tina Casey

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U.S. Navy Takes Another Shot at New Clean Energy Tech

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June 7th, 2010 by  

US Navy takes a shot at sustainable technology with grants for nine new research projectsThe U.S. Navy has been placing a well-aimed barrage of funding toward sustainable new energy technology in recent years, including new solar installations at naval bases, high-efficiency desalination systems, and even camelina biofuel for Navy fighter jets.  Now the Office of Naval Research has upped the ante with grants for nine new green tech research projects. The grants go to the nine winners of a clean energy challenge that the Navy issued at its recent Naval Energy Forum. The awards underscore the importance of new sustainable technology for Naval operations, but the Office of Naval Research also observes that investing more money in new technology is only part of the solution.

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In order to effect a broad new approach to energy, the Navy needs to implement a sweeping “policy change to help make the necessary cultural shifts in how its people think about energy use and the decisions they make in all settings, including acquisition, tactical and shore use.”  It’s a call for introspection that political leaders in the civilian sector should take to heart.

The Naval Energy Forum Tech Grants

Despite the economic, public health and environmental harm caused by British Petroleum’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of New Mexico, some state governors in the affected area have continued to call for more offshore oil drilling.  Their ranks include a former D.C. lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry, which may partly explain the continued focus on conventional energy sources.  In contrast, the Navy’s new grants reveal a far more forward thinking and imaginative approach to providing safe, long term solutions for the U.S. energy supply.  One awardee is researching methods to extract lithium and hydrogen from seawater, which could lead to the development of low cost, sustainable hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries.  High efficiency photovoltaics, advanced biofuel production, and bioelectrochemical energy generation also made the list, along with new surfaces for ships’ hulls that save energy by reducing drag.

The U.S. Navy and Sustainability

The Energy Forum web page at the Office of Naval Research provides some significant insights into the U.S. military perspective on sustainability.  Among other things, the Navy notes that it is ramping up its environmental stewardship role in the context of civilian support for environmental policies.  That’s a two-way street, with the Navy as both a receiving and driving force for change.  If we’re really serious about supporting our troops and not just plastering our cars with flags and stickers, it’s worth considering the money quote from the website: “As an early adopter of technology solutions, alternative energy sources, and efficient practices, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps acts as agents of positive change to catalyze similar change in their host communities across America.”  While the Navy notes that one overall goal is to reduce “vulnerabilities associated with dependence on foreign oil,” it also pushes the solutions away from more domestic drilling, and toward a lower carbon footprint – hardly an endorsement for more drill baby, drill.

Image: U.S. Navy by mashleymorgan on flickr.com.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Earl Senchuk

    Will give them a try. Thnx.

  • Earl Senchuk

    Thnks Tina, for your good suggestion. It turns out that I already looked into an sbir grant. They are closed out for things like Solar Vortex Generators until the next round of grants for such in September. We’ll have to wait for climate change to happen a little more. People, and the government need to stopping looking to large corporations and politicians for all their answers. The garage inventor is becoming a fading memory. Good article.

    • Tina Casey

      Speaking of inventors you might try getting in touch with Swell Fuel, a start-up with a buoy based wave energy generator. They might have some leads for you.

  • Ludlow Calhoun, esq.

    I work for the U.S. Army, the military equivalent of

    Harley-Davidson, “Proudly using yesterday’s technology today”. Even though our installation is in a progressive state, we do not currently have even

    one LEED-certified facility. Nor do we have any

    solar- or wind-powered buildings (though the former

    ARE on the drawing board…and here it is, only 2010!)

    Interesting to read how forward-thinking the Navy and

    Air Force are, while we can’t even building one lousy

    wind turbine.

    Progress, thy name is NOT “U.S. Army”.

  • Earl Senchuk

    I am seeking a grant source to develop a second level prototype for a “Solar Vortex Generator.” The first scale model proved not only how it works, but more importantly, that it works. The principle of operation combines elements of a Solar Updraft Tower with an Atmospheric Vortex Engine. The person involved with me owns a small research and development company dedicated to nanotechnology and alternative energy. Can you suggest a name or contact through which we might communicate our effort to find funding? I am a Navy veteran (machinist mate)from the Vietnam era and a former manufacturer of greenhouses. Thank you.

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