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U.S. Navy Brings Solar Power to Pearl Harbor

The U.S. Navy is installing solar panels on five rooftops at its Pearl Harbor, Hawaii base.Catch an aerial view of Pearl Harbor and it’s easy to see the potential for rooftop solar energy.   Parts of the U.S. Navy base in Hawaii are open space but much of it is a dense conglomeration of buildings and facilities, and every roof could be a potential sustainable energy generator.


The Navy is turning the potential into reality by contracting with a local company, Niking Corporation, to install solar panels on five rooftops at the base.  In terms of the available roof space that may seem like more of a demonstration project than a full scale installation, but it’s still significant.  The Navy expects the five roofs to bring in enough solar energy to power 440 homes, and for a state that’s not rich in fossil fuels, that’s a clear demonstration of the potential for growth in sustainable solar energy.

The U.S. Navy, Solar Power and Green Jobs

The $15 million solar installation contract was funded with through the federal stimulus bill (ARRA).  Part of ARRA involves the Obama administration’s commitment to create green jobs, and this dovetails neatly with the goal described by Naval Station Pearl Harbor commanding officer Capt. Richard Kitchens, which is to help assure “energy independence and national security.”  The installation will help cut down on the Navy’s oil consumption, saving an estimated 5,667 barrels yearly.  The Navy also estimates that its carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 3,118 tons annually.

The U.S. Navy and Climate Change

The reduction in carbon emissions at Pearl Harbor is part of the Department of Defense sustainable energy policy, which integrates energy security, national security, and something we’ll call climate security.  Last December a Navy oceanographic expert testified before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen regarding the Navy’s climate change plans.  The expert was Rear Adm. David Titley, director of the newly formed U.S. Navy Task Force Climate Change.  He discussed the need to adapt to near-term and mid-term impacts of climate change, including the likelihood of increased disaster and humanitarian relief missions.  Unfortunately rear Adm. Titley did not enjoy the full support of Congress, at least not from one Representative who dropped in at the airport for a bit to voice his disbelief in the reality of climate change.

The U.S. Navy and Sustainable Energy

Rear Adm. Titley’s presentation also covered the possibility of mitigating the impact of climate change, and that’s where solar and other forms of sustainable energy come in.  Along with solar installations, the Navy is getting into sustainable jet fuel and a slew of energy efficiency innovations, from non-toxic anti-barnacle coatings to new shipboard desalination technology.  Just last fall the Navy enthusiastically announced its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in the near term, going above and beyond President Obama’s executive order because, in the words of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, “our Navy and Marine Corps has never backed away from a challenge.”  It would be nice if Secretary Mabus, Rear Adm. Titley, Capt. Richard Kitchens, and the rest of the Navy and Marine Corps could count on the full support of Congress at the next climate conference.

Image: Pearl Harbor on wikimedia commons courtesy of NASA.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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