The nation’s first ever grid-connected wave energy system went online this week, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in Oahu. As Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus aptly put it in a Navy press release, “This project demonstrates the Navy and Marine Corps commitment to lead the country toward a new energy future.” Mabus made it clear that it’s full speed ahead for the Navy’s goal of 50% alternative energy by 2020, which presents a stark contrast to the situation in the civilian world, where certain groups are hell bent on opposing legislative action that promotes alternative energy. Hey, whatever happened to supporting our troops?
Wave Power and the U.S. Navy
The Navy has been testing a small (3-4 kilowatts) wave power device called the PB40 PowerBuoy, which was built by Ocean Power Technologies. Other wave power generators are being tested or are in operation in the U.S., but this is the first one to be connected to a grid, namely the grid at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The system is still undergoing evaluation but according to the base’s Commanding Officer, Col. Robert Rice, the goal is for the base to be entirely energy self-sufficient in five years. If that sounds a little ambitious, Col. Rice has plenty of company. Tooele Army Depot in Utah is testing wind power as a step toward going entirely off-grid, and other U.S. military bases may have similar plans.
Alternative Energy and Patriotism
Ironically, the same U.S. political party that is fond of touting its patriotic cred is the same one that is determined to twiddle its thumbs in the face of a global crisis that our own military is working hard to address. While environmental stewardship, disaster response and humanitarian relief all play roles in the military’s future outlook, the plain fact is that top military planners have determined that alternative energy is the only way to manage future national security issues. So how to explain the dawdling and pushback against alternative energy in the civilian world, at least when it comes to members of the aforementioned party: like they say, follow the money…
Image: Ocean waves by DeusXFlorida on flickr.com.
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. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.